It’s May, and if you’re like me, May is the time of the school year when we know that weeks of class may still remain, but we can’t help to look ahead to “next time.” In the spirits of wrapping up the school year, every May as a teacher or school librarian, I couldn’t help but think about “next times.” (Teachers and librarians are always on a path of ongoing improvement, of course, but the urge to look ahead seems to ramp up when we’re approaching the end of the year.)
Next-time thinking might be about the next time I teach this unit, next year when we set the library schedule, or the next time we have a chance to read that poem, order from that catalog, have that meeting . . . It’s almost like New Year’s resolutions all over again! Considering what we want to do “next time” is a process of professional reflection and self-assessment.
If you’re a reader of this blog, you probably know that I’m into reflection. I think it was my elementary student teaching experience years ago that engrained the practice into my work. For myself, for my K-12 students, my graduate-level school library candidates– reflection is an ongoing focus. And the end of the year is another great moment for reflection. Here are three ways to organize your thinking about “next time.”
1. This is an easy one! Record your ideas and questions while the moment is fresh. Maybe do some sorting– ideas for managing the space; ideas for interacting with children and literature; questions for yourself and teaching colleagues about designing and implementing instruction.
2. Next, pick at least one of your “next times,” and tell someone. For many of us, we tend to be more accountable when the plans are out there, and not just in our minds.
3. Finally, give yourself reasonable check points or benchmarks to follow up with a few goals that come from your reflection process.
At the risk of overwhelming yourself (and not attaining any of your goals for next time), allow your self to focus in on just a few. (A while back, I called this “focus on one fish and follow it.”) If you work through your goals, congratulate yourself! Tell your person from #2. Move on to another goal, or allow yourself to keep going and experience the day-to-day for awhile, before gearing up again.
For more on making reflecting part of your teaching practice, this is a go-to article: “Getting into the Habit of Reflection,” by Arthur Costa and Bena Callick in Educational Leadership. In the article, the authors offer this quotation:
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. —Søren Kierkegaard
Here’s to next time!
Image: Adding a little shoe spice to the stacks … by Enokson on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.