Reflective Teaching

Article by Christy Vacchio

In order to be an effective teacher, one must use the mirror to see what was learned, and develop a plan to improve instruction. In the beginning of my teaching career, I would often get frustrated at students’ misconceptions and my lack of effectiveness during lessons. Classroom management was not my strength, but I had a strong foundation in content knowledge. It wasn’t until I worked in retail management for a few years, that I learned how to actually become a better teacher.

As a retail manager, I was called upon to solve multiple problems throughout the day — like looking at sales to determine a better way to merchandise the product in order to get move it off the shelves, solving problems with faulty products and finding a way to end with a satisfied customer, or reading receipt logs to find the money missing from cash registers. When I went back into the classroom, those lessons were valuable in making me a more effective teacher overall.

Methods

Keeping a journal or diary is one way of reflecting on your daily lessons. Often, I would jot notes either on post-its or directly on my lesson plan with ideas for later reflection. When students struggled with subtraction involving larger numbers, I reflected and realized I needed to address the misconceptions in small groups or have students do an error analysis problem for morning work the following day.

One particular day I reflected on how I sent multiple students to the office for misbehavior. I thought about what might have gone wrong and listed ways I could have approached the issue in the future. That reflection allowed me to go back into the classroom the next day and implement some changes to improve the classroom culture.

Other methods of reflection can include recording a lesson for review, getting student surveys, and discussing lessons or issues with colleagues. I even enjoyed the advantage at one school district where a peer teacher would come in and observe then give feedback. You don’t have to teach in a district where this is required; just ask a fellow teacher to come in and observe, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Using the Mirror for Improvement

Imagine you are getting ready for work in the morning and you notice a large smudge of dirt on your face. Just as you would not walk away from the mirror without cleaning your face, you do not walk away from your reflection in teaching without making changes. As you write about issues, jot notes about student misconceptions or areas of concern, or discuss with a colleague a problem with classroom management, and you will begin to come up with solutions and ways to change your instruction. As you go back into the classroom, you will start to make those changes which will hone your skills as a teacher.

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