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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Teacher Reflection Prompts After a Pandemic School Year

What a year. I'm sure we've all uttered that phrase a time or two these last few weeks! This year more than ever, it is so important and valuable for us to be intentional about our mental, emotional, and physical recovery over summer break, and I've found that having reflection questions to guide my thinking and processing has been very helpful. Here are the questions I'm reflecting on this summer to help me process a traumatic school year and recharge for the new one.

1. What were my stressors this year?

This may seem like a "duh" question but there has been SO MUCH this year that I've found it healing and affirming to actually name the things that were stressful this year in particular. Many times this year I've found myself feeling overwhelmed or anxious "for no reason" and I wonder what my problem is, only to step back and remember that yeah, we're in a pandemic! 

2. What new things brought joy in my teaching this year?

This is not a "silver lining" question but a chance to think about things that I don't want to lose sight of as class schedules, curricular expectations, and other aspects of teaching return to pre-pandemic conditions. What happened as a result of the unusual pandemic situation- maybe because of reduced curricular pressure, having smaller class sizes, teaching virtually, going into homerooms on a cart, being forced to try new lesson ideas or class procedures, being compelled to focus on social emotional health, or some other aspect- that brought joy? 

3. What aspects of my pre-pandemic philosophy and practices held true?

The pandemic was a trial by fire of everything we thought we knew! A lot of our practices had to be re-thought, but which things remained constant even through the pandemic? Did my lesson planning practices still work when my teaching modality was constantly shifting? Did I feel comfortable with the representation of varied cultural backgrounds in my lessons when I knew families were listening in? Whatever stood the test of this year's upheaval is worth recognizing!

4. What aspects of my pre-pandemic philosophy and practices am I rethinking?

Of course the flip side of the previous question is to reflect on what new practices and ideas I'm letting go. Having so much of what we do flipped on its head has forced us to rethink a lot of what we've always done "just because", and one of the most valuable things we can do is make sure we think consciously about those aspects and avoid slipping back into old habits.

5. What are my core values and purpose as a teacher?

Part of the healing process has to be a re-aligning our values and re-imagining our identities as teachers. What aspects of the things we lost this year- singing, holding hands, sharing materials, performing for live audiences, having our own space for music class, etc- did we not miss as much as we thought we would, and what did we take for granted before and now value much more consciously? In what ways has my identity as a teacher, how I view my role and purpose, changed? 

6. What holes in my practice were revealed this year that I want to focus on next year?

I'm sure all of us found weaknesses and holes in our teaching as we were forced to re-think everything we do, and in many cases make our teaching more public as we zoomed into our students' homes with families listening in the background. Taking the time to think through those and note them now will help us avoid sweeping them under the rug and returning to old habits.

7. What can I do this summer to give my body, mind, and soul the opportunity to heal?

We've been through a lot this year, and it is going to take intentionality and effort to allow ourselves to heal before the start of the next school year. Let's not leave it to chance- what are some specific ways I can give myself the chance to recover and rejuvenate?

I hope these questions help you process this difficult school year and start the process of recovery. I personally find I have a lot more clarity in my thinking when I actually write down my thoughts- I'd encourage you to consider writing yours down as well as you reflect. I'd be happy to serve as a sounding board if you want to talk through these questions with a colleague- feel free to email me!

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