How to Use Reflective Teaching Strategies to Drive Classroom Instruction

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I’ve heard it said that insanity is consistently doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.  And while you have to give anything a fair chance, there are times we all have to admit that change is necessary.  Thus, the importance of reflective teaching strategies.

You see, I’ve always been the type of person who is willing to admit mistakes.  And that’s a good thing since I tend to make a lot of mistakes.  I genuinely believe “Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.”

However, no matter how often you admit them, some mistakes are hard to bear.  And I recently discovered what happens when we put too much of our self-worth into performance.      

Reflective Teaching Strategies

What are Reflective Teaching Strategies?

Well, simply put, reflective teaching strategies are looking back at what worked and didn’t work in our teaching in an effort to determine the best course of action for our students’ learning moving forward.

In other words, we look back at how our kids did with specific content to determine what our next best steps are to help them make forward progress.  This gives us the opportunity to see where there are disconnections between our teaching and our students’ learning.

These reflective teaching strategies became very real in my life recently.

Reality Check

A few weeks ago, I received the results of my kids’ standardized tests.  I had been a bit nervous about them because this was the first set of standardized tests my boys had taken since we’ve been homeschooling.

So you can bet that I had all of my self-worth as a mama and a teacher tied up in those scores.  And while I know that one test is not a complete reflection of everything a child knows, I am keenly aware of the fact that it can provide valuable insight into what a child doesn’t understand.  

As I opened that manila envelope, I discovered some scores that I was NOT hoping to see.  In fact, I felt completely deflated.  I felt like I had let my boys down.

And that’s when the questions started flying through my mind…

After more than a few tears, several days of questioning my worth as a teacher, and prayer, I made a decision.  I needed to dig in to their results and see what they were missing.  In other words, I needed to spend some time using those pesky reflective teaching strategies.

But I knew it wasn’t going to be fun.

The Uncomfortable In-Between

You see, any time we have to face the reality that we are wrong or that we need to do something differently, it hurts our pride.  When we look into why something isn’t connecting with our kids, we find deficits in our own teaching.  

And it gets pretty uncomfortable.  

Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all like to think we’re killing this whole teaching gig.    

So, putting pride to the side and admitting that there are areas that we need to improve…is just plain difficult.  

I didn’t want to admit that I had dropped the ball in certain areas of my boys’ learning.  That reality hurt my heart and seriously wounded my pride.  But, if I wanted to help them grow as students and young men, I had to dig into the truth.  And I knew reflecting on what was working and what was not working was necessary.    

Reflection

In truth, it feels pretty natural to spend time reflecting at the end of a year.  As the New Year approaches, we think about how the year as a whole has progressed.  Many times we’re so ready to just start fresh.

Unfortunately, having to reflect at the drop of a hat, or in my case because of lower than expected test scores, feels unnatural.  But, there is absolutely nothing magical about the first day of January.  

You see, each day we wake up, we have a fresh opportunity in front of us.  Whether it’s teaching or life in general, we have the opportunity to move forward or stay stagnant.  Yet, we all seem to struggle with the reality that NOW might be the best time to make a change.

When I received those “less than impressive” Language Arts scores, I knew I didn’t need to just ignore the information in front of me until January.  I realized that continuing on the current path was not an option.  So, I acknowledged the fact that I needed to fill in some gaps and I started researching tools to help me do that.  

It made me think about how we, as teachers, have the same choice.  We can continue doing what we’ve always done because it’s the path of least resistance until January, or we can throw out our pride, acknowledge the fact that something isn’t connecting, and figure out what our kids need us to do differently.

Yes, it’s going to mean we have to invest more time and effort.  But, aren’t your kids worth it?  

Rebooting Instruction

Remember, this doesn’t mean that you have to redo EVERY single thing you’re doing.  If something is working…KEEP DOING IT!!  That is why implementing these reflective teaching strategies is so important.  Reflection gives us an opportunity to see what is going well, and what areas need to be improved.  

In my case, I needed to revamp our English-Language Arts curriculum.  My kids have grown leaps and bounds in writing, but grammar and fiction-based questioning is severely lacking.  So we are continuing with the writing program and adding in some fantastic resources that are filling in the gaps.

Once you have decided how to fill in any gaps or areas of deficit, you can reboot your instruction.  It may be as simple as finding a resource to help you teach a skill more thoroughly or it may be finding a professional development course or class to help you learn a new approach.

As teachers, using reflective teaching strategies is essential. Whether we like to admit it or not, sometimes we have to accept the fact that something isn't working for our students. Find out why you need to add these reflective teaching practices into your routine and discover how to help your kids make progress in their learning. #growthmindset #reflection #reflectiveteaching #teachers

I’m already starting to see my boys gaining momentum in their learning, and it’s worth every hour I spent finding the right curriculum to fill in those gaps.  And, whatever choice you’ve made by using these reflective teaching strategies, you know it’s going to be the best thing for your kids.