New teacher articles

Reflecting on this year — and planning for next year

The end of the school year brings complex emotions for students and teachers alike. You may be feeling relieved that the year is over, proud of what you and your students have accomplished or just sorely in need of a good night’s sleep!

Whatever you’re feeling, the beginning of summer is also a natural time to reflect on your practice as a teacher and look ahead to the new school year. What elements from this year do you want to preserve next year? What do you want to change? You have a unique opportunity now to consider the arc of the entire year to see the big picture.

“Spend about 15 percent of your time thinking about what you wish you had done better and 80 percent on what worked,” advises Ed Levine, a special education teacher at PS 169 on the Upper East Side. “Chances are, within that 80 percent are plenty of strategies for fixing the other 15 percent.”

You may even find that reflection can go hand-in-hand with relaxation — which, it goes without saying, should be an integral part of your summer routine.

“On the first day of summer, I have a tradition of sleeping in, heading to a local coffee shop with my laptop, and writing a journal reflection of the entire year before I forget anything,” says Erica Irene Corlito, a teacher at PS 214 in Cypress Hills. “It’s relaxing and cathartic to just let it all out. Then, I read my reflection from the prior year and I am always amazed at how far I’ve come.”

As you clean out your classroom for the summer, you will probably have an opportunity to gather up many of your teaching materials. With the year still fresh in your mind, it can be a good idea to think about where the gaps are in your resources — books you may need, lessons you want to revise, projects you’d like to expand — so that you can continue to build your arsenal of teaching tools for next year.

You may feel that the last thing you want to do as the summer begins is think about work. But some teachers use the first few weeks of summer as an opportunity to flesh out their curriculum while their brains are still in “school mode.”

If you have classroom charts or samples of student work you’d like to save, the early days of summer can also be a good time to preserve materials so they don’t get lost.

“Keep digital files of everything,” says John L. Jones, an English teacher at Edward R. Murrow HS in Midwood. That can mean everything from lesson plans to assessments to copies of your own teaching evaluations.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to give yourself some time for rejuvenation.

“Rather than stress, I think of how I helped my students in spite of challenges,” says Donna Zucconi, a teacher at PS 100 in Coney Island. “And I ask: What’s the one thing I can do even better next year?”

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