I never wanted to be that teacher who got stale. After I did my National Board Certification, I constantly was in a state of reflection. I tried to make the class enjoyable, rigorous and not increase my workload or make life harder for anyone.
The day after the AP test, I had students reflect while it was fresh in their minds. I used Google Forms (because that’s the LMS we used) and had them submit anonymously. I let them know that I was looking for genuine feedback to help me be better. (I believe that once you’ve built a relationship with your classes, they are willing to do this constructively)
Questions for students:
- Which semester did you have AP Gov? (I taught semester classes and wanted to see a breakdown of who took the test)
- What helped you prepare for the test that we did in class
- What suggestions do you have for me to help seniors next year prepare? (Constructive criticism)
- What do you think you got on the test?
- Why do you feel you got that grade?
- Was Albert.io helpful in preparation for the test? (We used Albert.io instead of AP classroom because of user friendliness)
- Any other comments to help me plan for next year?
Make sure you are in a place to receive feedback. Inevitably, you will get feedback that’s not productive. It’s essential to be in a headspace to be able to move past that feedback. It’s hard. People can be mean. I’ll be honest, sometimes I read them at home and made snarky comments to help me process and move past. If you have a trusted colleague to help you dissect the data, that can also be helpful.
I had them do this because I was also reflecting on what to do better next year. My reflections always fell into three buckets.
What went well this year? What did I knock out of the park? Take some time to celebrate! I usually did this the day before the test and the day of while students were taking the test. I’d write them down, so I remembered to do it again! Nothing is too small! If you are struggling with celebrating yourself, ask students, colleagues, family, or friends. Often they can see things we have a hard time noticing. At the end of last year, my biggest celebration was that I taught online in a pandemic, and even though the test changed and many students disappeared, I did something I never thought I could do. I adjusted every day while also making sure I took care of myself and my family. Oh, and I got married and got an incredible new job.
What did I like but need to adjust? What lessons could have been made better by small or large changes? Did I try something that someone else gave me and now need to make it my own? I adjusted my Moot Court every single year. I’d do it at the moment, too. I took copious notes in my lesson plan books to remind myself of things that didn’t work and needed to change. Especially when I noticed I was graded too many essays and giving feedback that students weren’t reading. It’s why I changed to group writing. It was less grading for me and I was able to give immediate feedback that helped them with their writing/
It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it forever. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it. Your students might tell you something doesn’t work. Listen to them. I stopped doing vocabulary. If all students are doing is copying definitions, what is the point? It was a GIGANTIC waste of time, and my life got so much better after we stopped doing it. We incorporated vocabulary in a completely different way.
At the end of the year, it felt great to have reflected on the year, the classes, and the lessons so I could use the summer to recharge and head into the new school year with a plan to be better than I was the year before. And that’s the ultimate goal, to be better than I was.Elizabeth Evans, NBCT