By Mike Anderson
The last few weeks of school are a frenetic time. There’s so much to do and so little time left! End-of-the-year assemblies, guest speakers, field trips, assessments, final projects, team meetings, placement paperwork . . . the list of tasks and responsibilities that compete for our instructional time can be daunting.
Understandably, this can leave teachers feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and even incompetent. In my book, The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out, I share some research about the importance of self-efficacy. For instance, when teachers know they’re good at what they do, they’re more likely to work hard, persist when things are tough, have more enthusiasm for teaching, and be less critical of students who struggle. The end of the year is an especially critical time for us to celebrate our accomplishments since that’s an important part of setting goals and reenergizing for next year.
It’s hard to feel good about the work we do if we don’t take the time to acknowledge our accomplishments. Consider some of the following ways to celebrate your successes of the year:
- Make a list of accomplishments. Take 10 minutes to jot down as many accomplishments (no matter how small) from the year. They might be about students (Jenny learned to love science this year) or about yourself (I got better at shortening direct instruction lessons). Come back later and add to the list. How many can you add?
- Compare then and now. Take a few minutes for some private journaling. Think back to the beginning of the year. What was your class like? What did students know? How did they treat each other and work together? Now think about where they are today. What progress have you made together? How have they grown and improved? What have they learned?
- Ask your students for feedback. I love to create a report card for my students to fill out about me. I use the students’ report card as a model and have them grade my work as a teacher. I let them know that I want specific feedback on what I did well and what I can do better next year.
- Share successes with a colleague. Take a walk around the school with a colleague and share your successes from the year. Resist the urge to qualify accomplishments with “buts.” (Rico really grew as a reader this year, but he still has a hard time getting along with others!) Focus on positives!
Set Some Goals
Great teachers are always thinking about their next area for growth and learning. Once you have reflected on accomplishments, use these ideas as a springboard for goal setting:
- Refer to your accomplishment list and consider next steps. Try setting a goal that builds off of an accomplishment you listed. Example: This year, I shortened my direct instruction lessons. Next year, I want to make the lessons more interactive so that students are talking with each other more.
- Prepare for “then” now. As you think back to the beginning of the school year, what might you have done differently that could have helped this year be even better? Write down a couple of ideas and put them into your calendar to remember at the beginning of next school year.
- Ask students for ideas on how to improve. Who is better positioned to help you consider ideas for growth or improvement? Set goals based on students’ feedback and ideas. (My students said they wanted more real-world examples for lessons. Next year, I will incorporate more real examples and even encourage students to think of some.) What better way could there be to model being a lifelong learner?
- Share your goals with a colleague. There’s nothing like sharing a goal with a colleague to help you take the goal more seriously. Ask your colleague to check in with you about your goal.
These are just a few ideas. What are yours? How else might teachers reflect, celebrate, and build on accomplishments at the end of the school year?
For other ideas about goal setting, check out The Well-Balanced Teacher. It’s available in print and e-book formats and there’s a free study guide. For more ideas about wrapping up a school year, check out a great collection of articles put together by my Responsive Classroom colleagues.
Mike Anderson is a Responsive Classroom program developer for Northeast Foundation for Children. He was a classroom teach for 15 years and is the author of several books, including The Well-Balanced Teacher (ASCD, 2010). He currently lives in Durham, N.H., with his wife and their two children, Ethan and Carly.