The year is just about over. As teachers, we celebrate the end of school most of the time and are ready to breathe a heavy sigh of relief. But for many of us, issues that occurred during the year might have made us feel insecure or question whether our teaching choices were correct. How do we know? We need to develop a reflective practice for our teaching habits. If you follow the following steps, you might find out that the year really wasn’t that bad. If you find places for improvement, you can decide how you approach them and develop your skills as a reflective teacher. Doing it now means you won’t be musing over it during the summer. Who wants to do that on their vacation?
BUT WHY, KAREN? Professionals are consistently evaluating their performances. If you shrug incidents off indifferently, you are not benefitting your students in one of the places where they might be able to be more creative. If you are too hard on yourself, you aren’t doing yourself any good. If you aren’t interested in improving realistically, I have to ask: why are you teaching in the first place?
I’m not talking about the crazy extremes teachers have been facing. Don’t fret about the parent who tells you their child should have had a solo, the teacher who tries to “overhelp” during programs, or the administrator who compares you to the teacher before. (That’s for another blog post!) Turn to your own training to reflect your teaching strategy successes and places for improvement.
- Ask the students. I mean, what better place to start? Most students will take this more seriously than you might think. Even the “reluctant” musicians generally provide some excellent insight. Some things you will want to know:
*Their favorite activities
*Favorite classroom instruments
*What they didn’t like in music
*What they might do differently.
- Reflect on teaching situations you felt were difficult and evaluate whether or not your original feelings were objective. We’ve had those days when technology wouldn’t work, where a student escalated when the principal walks in to observe a lesson that didn’t engage when you thought it would, when a child pees on the floor or throws up, and even when you or a child has had a “wardrobe malfunction.” How effective was that lesson once you removed the offending incident from the whole class picture (consider it an outlier)? Did the students become engaged again? How did you handle Plan B? Were you prepared for a Plan B? It’s essential to revisit situations when you have stepped away from them, give them a few days for you to recover emotionally, and matter-of-factly view them.
- Review any documentation from your observations and use those to determine what suggestions you will incorporate, and which ones will really not work. Observations are a good way to get a snapshot of a teacher’s performance, but in no way are they the total story. In particular, if you have a principal who has had little or no musical background, you might find yourself puzzled when you read the notes of the observation. Without having a good understanding of performance-based classes, administrators might try to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Make a note of these (even if you already discussed them), file it away for August, and plan to revisit this at the beginning of the new school year.
- Go out for drinks or lunch with other music colleagues and share incidents with them, being as objective as possible, and ask them for their input. Do the same for them. Don’t have any music colleagues? Facebook has some wonderful music teacher groups. Granted, there are some teachers in these groups who get a little too blunt or critical. However, there are more who know how to answer these questions, and usually, they will berate the rude person. There is often drama in these groups, so choose carefully. I would recommend the American Orff-Schulwerk Association and/or the Organization for American Kodaly Educators groups because the administrators generally make sure the groups are represented in a professional manner.
- Don’t sit down for hours and hours musing over this. Write notes in your playbook, journal, or observation documentation, find a safe place for these artifacts where you can find them in August, and go enjoy your students!
There are several ideas for the end of the school year in my blog post Take It Outside. There is a list of my Teachers Pay Teachers products that work great with the outdoors. AND, these items are on sale May 3-4, 2022. Get up to 25% with the code THANKYOU22.
Remember how I mentioned getting input from your students about the school year? I have a free Google form set up that you can have your students fill in to answer these questions. No papers to work through and save! Everything is on your Google drive. Opt-in for Dr. Stafford’s Music Class Boosters to get weekly updates and receive a link to the shared Google folder where you can access free items only available to subscribers. Free items are added on a regular basis!