Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
June 27, 2016 Self-Evaluation: Looking Back to Go Forward By John DePasquale
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    At the end of the school year I feel, as my students say, "some type of way." I experience a swirling mix of conflicting emotions. I am anxious as we race against time to frantically complete our final projects of the year. Pride swells within me as I think about the achievements and progress my students displayed over the past months. An inescapable feeling of regret inevitably follows at this point as thoughts of what I could have done better to meet the needs of particular students enter my mind. All of these emotions are topped off by additional feelings of nostalgia as I reminisce about all of my eighth grade students that are moving on to high school next year. How can I possibly make sense of all of these emotions happening at once?

    I believe there is powerful meaning behind each feeling that can be revealed through thoughtful and deliberate reflection. However, pausing to reflect is not the easiest thing to do when caught in an emotional vortex. Reflecting at the end of the school year can be difficult, but I intentionally carve out time for this important undertaking because it ultimately informs professional goals I set to make my teaching practice even stronger next year.  

    A few years ago I learned about the "The Gut-Level Teacher Reflection" developed by Jennifer Gonzalez, and I was glad to know I was not alone. I modified this idea to come up with ways to tap into my emotions in order to set meaningful goals for next school year. If you’re also experiencing mixed feelings at this time, I hope these ideas will help.

    Step 1: Take a Breath

    The first step is tough for me, but it is essential that I first clear my mind before I am able to reflect. As an early morning person, the quiet and stillness that greets each day is the best time for me to think with clarity of mind. I put aside my phone, unanswered emails, and my endless to-do list so I can completely devote my thoughts to the process. Before I begin, I focus on slow breathing for one minute to clear my mind.

    Step 2: Get A Feeling For Your Emotions

    Now that my mind is in a place to reflect, I next tune my thoughts to the end-of-year feelings I associate with my students, my classroom environment, and my curriculum. As I develop new insights while I reflect, I jot notes to myself as reminders I ultimately use to write my professional goals.  

    Students: I first consider my students using a class photo to help me name the different feelings I connect with each of them. While I slowly scan the faces in the photo, I listen carefully to each and every feeling I experience. I ask myself:

    • Who are the students that make me smile because I am proud of their accomplishments and growth this school year?

    • Who in the class makes me feel like I could have done more to meet their needs?

    • Which students would I gladly teach for another year?

    • Who in the class will I be not so sorry to see move on?

    • What do I notice about these feelings? What causes me to feel this way?

    • Which feelings do I want to intensify next year? Which ones do I want to avoid in the future?

    Classroom Environment: Before I pack up my classroom for summer vacation, I arrive to school early one morning during the final week of the school year. I sit quietly alone in my classroom and just observe.  I carefully take into account the various aspects of the room’s environment down to even the smallest detail. I name the feelings I have with each observation. I also find it helpful to sit in a student desk to view the room from their perspective and imagine their feelings about the space. These questions guide my thinking as I observe:

    • What is the overall feeling of the room?  What three words describe this overall feeling?

    • What sections of the classroom are used the most? Where do I spend most of my time when I am in the room? How do I feel about these sections?

    • Where in the room is there unnecessary clutter? How do I feel seeing at this clutter?

    • Does the arrangement of furniture in the room allow people to move easily through the space?  How does the space feel when it is full of students?

    • How do I feel looking at the posters and anchor charts in the room? Are they useful tools that promote different types of thinking?

    If your classroom is currently packed or if your summer vacation already started, you can look at a photo of your classroom or you can also try to visualize it from memory.    

    Curriculum: I use samples of student work, collected in portfolios over the course of the year, to guide my thinking as I look back on the lessons and units I taught this year.  By grounding this part of the reflection in student work, I am better able to see evidence (or lack evidence) of my teaching in the final products. 

    I select about three portfolios that are representative of the various skill levels of the students in my class. This helps to keep my reflection focused on the evidence I notice in the work that resulted from the different lessons and learning outcomes I developed. I ask myself the following questions as I review the work in the portfolios:

    • What initial feelings do I have as I review the work in the portfolio?

    • What trends do I notice in the work? What do the different work samples have in common?

    • How do I feel when I see evidence of my teaching in the work?

    • What do I feel when I see evidence in multiple work samples of a learning outcome that was not met?

    After reflecting on the end-of-year emotions I associate with my students, classroom environment, and curriculum, I use these uncovered feelings to develop the professional goals I will work on over summer vacation. 

    Step 3: Set Goals           

    I try not to overwhelm myself by creating too many goals, but come up with two or three to work on over the summer. I think of ways I can improve my relationships with students, changes that could enhance my classroom environment, and strategies I can use to refine my curriculum. For each goal, I think back to the feelings and emotions that were brought to light through the reflection. My goals for next year were developed directly from my responses to these two questions:    

    • What will I continue to do next year to intensify the positive feelings I had this year?

    • What will I do in the future to minimize or eliminate the negative feelings experienced?

    Here are two of my goals for next school year:

    1. I hope to establish effective guided reading and book club routines in order to target reading instruction while building positive social energy centered on a shared literacy activity.

    2. I would also like to develop sustainable procedures to return graded work to my students that will allow me to get rid of the heaps of paper that typically clutter my desk.

    I look forward to sharing with you in the fall the ideas I develop over the summer. In the meantime, I hope those of you lucky to enough to enjoy a summer vacation truly bask in this well-deserved break.   

    At the end of the school year I feel, as my students say, "some type of way." I experience a swirling mix of conflicting emotions. I am anxious as we race against time to frantically complete our final projects of the year. Pride swells within me as I think about the achievements and progress my students displayed over the past months. An inescapable feeling of regret inevitably follows at this point as thoughts of what I could have done better to meet the needs of particular students enter my mind. All of these emotions are topped off by additional feelings of nostalgia as I reminisce about all of my eighth grade students that are moving on to high school next year. How can I possibly make sense of all of these emotions happening at once?

    I believe there is powerful meaning behind each feeling that can be revealed through thoughtful and deliberate reflection. However, pausing to reflect is not the easiest thing to do when caught in an emotional vortex. Reflecting at the end of the school year can be difficult, but I intentionally carve out time for this important undertaking because it ultimately informs professional goals I set to make my teaching practice even stronger next year.  

    A few years ago I learned about the "The Gut-Level Teacher Reflection" developed by Jennifer Gonzalez, and I was glad to know I was not alone. I modified this idea to come up with ways to tap into my emotions in order to set meaningful goals for next school year. If you’re also experiencing mixed feelings at this time, I hope these ideas will help.

    Step 1: Take a Breath

    The first step is tough for me, but it is essential that I first clear my mind before I am able to reflect. As an early morning person, the quiet and stillness that greets each day is the best time for me to think with clarity of mind. I put aside my phone, unanswered emails, and my endless to-do list so I can completely devote my thoughts to the process. Before I begin, I focus on slow breathing for one minute to clear my mind.

    Step 2: Get A Feeling For Your Emotions

    Now that my mind is in a place to reflect, I next tune my thoughts to the end-of-year feelings I associate with my students, my classroom environment, and my curriculum. As I develop new insights while I reflect, I jot notes to myself as reminders I ultimately use to write my professional goals.  

    Students: I first consider my students using a class photo to help me name the different feelings I connect with each of them. While I slowly scan the faces in the photo, I listen carefully to each and every feeling I experience. I ask myself:

    • Who are the students that make me smile because I am proud of their accomplishments and growth this school year?

    • Who in the class makes me feel like I could have done more to meet their needs?

    • Which students would I gladly teach for another year?

    • Who in the class will I be not so sorry to see move on?

    • What do I notice about these feelings? What causes me to feel this way?

    • Which feelings do I want to intensify next year? Which ones do I want to avoid in the future?

    Classroom Environment: Before I pack up my classroom for summer vacation, I arrive to school early one morning during the final week of the school year. I sit quietly alone in my classroom and just observe.  I carefully take into account the various aspects of the room’s environment down to even the smallest detail. I name the feelings I have with each observation. I also find it helpful to sit in a student desk to view the room from their perspective and imagine their feelings about the space. These questions guide my thinking as I observe:

    • What is the overall feeling of the room?  What three words describe this overall feeling?

    • What sections of the classroom are used the most? Where do I spend most of my time when I am in the room? How do I feel about these sections?

    • Where in the room is there unnecessary clutter? How do I feel seeing at this clutter?

    • Does the arrangement of furniture in the room allow people to move easily through the space?  How does the space feel when it is full of students?

    • How do I feel looking at the posters and anchor charts in the room? Are they useful tools that promote different types of thinking?

    If your classroom is currently packed or if your summer vacation already started, you can look at a photo of your classroom or you can also try to visualize it from memory.    

    Curriculum: I use samples of student work, collected in portfolios over the course of the year, to guide my thinking as I look back on the lessons and units I taught this year.  By grounding this part of the reflection in student work, I am better able to see evidence (or lack evidence) of my teaching in the final products. 

    I select about three portfolios that are representative of the various skill levels of the students in my class. This helps to keep my reflection focused on the evidence I notice in the work that resulted from the different lessons and learning outcomes I developed. I ask myself the following questions as I review the work in the portfolios:

    • What initial feelings do I have as I review the work in the portfolio?

    • What trends do I notice in the work? What do the different work samples have in common?

    • How do I feel when I see evidence of my teaching in the work?

    • What do I feel when I see evidence in multiple work samples of a learning outcome that was not met?

    After reflecting on the end-of-year emotions I associate with my students, classroom environment, and curriculum, I use these uncovered feelings to develop the professional goals I will work on over summer vacation. 

    Step 3: Set Goals           

    I try not to overwhelm myself by creating too many goals, but come up with two or three to work on over the summer. I think of ways I can improve my relationships with students, changes that could enhance my classroom environment, and strategies I can use to refine my curriculum. For each goal, I think back to the feelings and emotions that were brought to light through the reflection. My goals for next year were developed directly from my responses to these two questions:    

    • What will I continue to do next year to intensify the positive feelings I had this year?

    • What will I do in the future to minimize or eliminate the negative feelings experienced?

    Here are two of my goals for next school year:

    1. I hope to establish effective guided reading and book club routines in order to target reading instruction while building positive social energy centered on a shared literacy activity.

    2. I would also like to develop sustainable procedures to return graded work to my students that will allow me to get rid of the heaps of paper that typically clutter my desk.

    I look forward to sharing with you in the fall the ideas I develop over the summer. In the meantime, I hope those of you lucky to enough to enjoy a summer vacation truly bask in this well-deserved break.   

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us