A Math Teacher's End-of-Year Reflections
By the time the end of the school year rolls around, there is absolutely no way any teacher wants to add one more thing to their to-do lists! I get it. Most of the time we are just dragging ourselves across the finish line no matter how amazing the school year was!
Before you completely close out the school year and shift into summer mode (whatever that looks like for you!), I highly recommend setting aside a few intentional minutes to reflect on this school year. You don’t even have to do anything with these reflections right now if you don’t want, but there is a lot of value that comes from taking the time to think about what was really successful, what could be improved, and what needs to be completely reworked.
Celebrate What Was Successful
Too often when we are reflecting on the end of the year we skip right over the things that worked and focus on the things that didn’t work. The problem with this is 1) we don’t recognize the little things we did throughout the year that had a huge impact on our students and 2) we miss out on the motivation that comes from celebrating all wins, big and small. When we take time to acknowledge what was successful, it encourages us to do those things even better next year.
What is something that worked really well this year? How did this impact students’ academic growth? How did it impact students’ beliefs about themselves as learners?
List 5 moments this year that made you really proud as a math teacher. What actions led to those moments? Think about specific lessons, something a student said/did, a math struggle you or a student overcame, etc.
Take a look at data. What standards or skills did students show the most success or the most growth? What stands out to you about how you taught these standards or skills? How did you feel about teaching these standards/skills?
Consider Areas for Growth
The rewarding part of going through the tough stuff is that now you know where you need to grow. DO NOT beat yourself up during this part of the reflection process. Instead, change your perspective and look at all of this as a learning experience. The struggles you had this past year are going to be the things that make you an even better teacher next year. “Grow through what you go through,” math teacher friends!
List 3-5 things that caused stress, frustration, or exhaustion this year. Try to only focus on the things inside your classroom that you can control (i.e. lesson planning, grading, homework, problem-solving, etc.).
Which of these things can you improve by creating a more streamlined process or routine for? How could you benefit from participating in professional development or reaching out for support?
What routines, expectations, or activities were time consuming, but didn’t really have the impact you thought they would have on students’ mathematical growth? How will you approach these routines/expectations/activities next year?
Take a look at data. What standards or skills did students show the least amount of success or growth with? Consider what was successful and what was unsuccessful about how you taught these standards/skills. How did you feel about teaching these standards/skills?
Learn from Student Surveys
If you want to know how this year impacted students, ask your students! Now I know this may seem intimidating, but I have never regretted taking the time to listen to my students’ reflections. Their voices are important and their perspectives are valuable. Honestly, we are usually much more critical of ourselves than our students are! My math friend Noelle at Maneuvering the Middle has a great blog post about Student Surveys as End-of-Year Reflections. Not only do student surveys give you insight on students’ perspectives for your own reflective purposes, but it also is a great activity for this time of year when you have those awkward periods of time between field days and end-of-year celebrations.
Of course, reflect in a way that is best for you, but I definitely encourage you to set aside time to reflect before closing out this past school year both physically and mentally. The best teachers take time to reflect because they know it impacts the way they do things moving forward. I would absolutely love to hear about your reflections and support you any way I can. If you are not part of our Upper Elementary Math Teachers Facebook group, you will be missing out! We will soon be sharing our reflections, learning from each other’s successes, and brainstorming together ways that we can all grow.
Want a peek at some of my past reflections?
I thought it might be helpful to share just a couple of reflections that have come out of this exercise for me in the past and how I used these reflections to impact my teaching practices moving forward. There are so many reflections I could share, but this gives you a little insight on how impactful this exercise has been for me!
Reflection: My students showed so much mathematical growth by using math manipulatives, but I often felt it was time-consuming, disorganized, and clean-up took forever which cut into other important parts of class time.
Impact: The following year I had very intentional routines for how manipulatives were stored and how students interacted with each other and the manipulatives when they were in use. We practiced these routines at the beginning of the year. Students were able to benefit from the use of manipulatives and I didn’t experience the frustrations I had with math manipulatives the previous year.
Reflection: I was overwhelmed with grading and was not able to get work back to students quick enough to where my feedback had any impact on their learning.
Impact: I stopped grading everything. I chose very specific categories of things I would grade the next year and graded only those things. I was able to return work much quicker, provide meaningful feedback on the things I graded, and I was rarely (if ever) overwhelmed with grading.