The reflective teacher

If you can, you do. If you can’t, you teach.

I’ve heard this before. I’ve heard it at dinner parties when friends of mine insinuate that my ‘vacations’ are nothing more than leisure time spent relaxing and that my job is nothing more than a glorified babysitter. I’ve sat through their hallow praise of how my choice to be a teacher is “so noble’. Most people don’t give a second thought as to all the little things that go into the daily grind of teaching. There are lesson plans, grading, organizing, more grading, more organizing, communications with parents, just to name a few. These actions are only the very tip of the iceberg that is teaching. It is known that 90% of an iceberg is underwater, unseen. The same can be said for teaching.

“Any warm body can do what you do”, I’ve been told to my face by a good friend. He went on to tell me that he taught one class for one semester at technical school a few years ago and that it was ‘so easy, I could do it with my eyes closed”. He elaborated that he could go in to class hung over and just pass out the syllabus. He didn’t need to care if the kids showed up or learned anything. “It’s their fault if they don’t learn what I’m teaching…” I’m sure he was a great teacher whose students loved coming in to class each day.

When we think about all the little things that go into being an effective teacher, we often come up with massive lists of daily operations, breadth and depth of knowledge base and content. These lists are important and need to brought up but I’ve come to realize that content is never ‘king’ and that the best teachers obsess over one thing.

They obsess about being reflective in their practice. They are constantly searching to change that one thing that will make this particular lesson reach that one student who didn’t ‘get it’ in class today. In truth, master teachers reflect on… everything.

They reflect on the lesson plan they thought up.

They reflect on how that lesson matches up with standards.

They reflect on why those standards matter (or don’t matter) for this particular lesson.

They reflect on how they organize the learning space in their classroom.

They reflect how well they challenged their students today.

They reflect on how well they challenged themselves today.

They reflect on each choice they make in the halls.

They reflect on if each student is engaged in the lesson.

They reflect on how to get every student to smile.

They reflect on modeling what asking questions looks like.

They reflect on why their class didn’t go well.

They reflect on the one student who didn’t raise their hand in class.

They reflect on how to make their class fell safe for each and every student.

They reflect on finding ways to extend that feeling of safety into the community they serve.

They reflect on making learning part of their student’s ‘everyday’ life.

They reflect on respecting their students.

They reflect on including their students voices in class decisions.

They reflect on advocating for their students needs.

They reflect on partnering with parents of student who struggle.

They reflect on partnering with parents of students who need to be challenged more.

They reflect on each decision they make in the classroom.

They reflect on every aspect of their teaching. Constantly. Every. Single. Day.

Then, master teachers act on that obsessive reflecting and make their class a little bit better tomorrow than it was today. Every. Single. Day. 

Yeah… it’s super easy.

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