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by Tara Malka Gensler and Shirley Charles | July 6, 2017 New York Teacher issue
Congratulations, you did it! Some of you have finished your first year of teaching; for others, this is far from your first rodeo. Many of you will begin your long-awaited summer vacation, and others will return to teach summer school. Regardless of what your summer plans are, please consider adding the three R’s: rest, rejuvenation and reflection.
You have worked hard this year, sometimes staying up late, grading papers, writing assignments and reviewing lesson plans. You have put your students and their families first. Now, it is time to rest and take care of yourself. Travel, expand your list of hobbies or indulge in that special treat.
Do you like going to the movies or theater, basking in the sun at the beach or curling up with the latest novel? Take up drawing or painting or pick up that instrument you used to play. Register for the yoga, cooking or dance classes that you have been eyeing all year long. It is time for you to do your thing and take a break from your typical routine. After all, you have earned your vacation!
The summer is also an ideal time to reflect on the past school year. Effective educators ask themselves: What were my strengths this year? Where do I need more guidance? Just as our students do, educators set personal and professional goals aimed at improving their skills. These goals can range from increasing knowledge or understanding of a particular area to refining specific teaching skills, improving communication with others and developing more efficient organizational skills. Reflecting on teaching practices is a critical step in moving toward further success.
We recommend listing the personal and professional goals you are going to work on over the course of the next school year. Divide them into two groups: long-term goals and short-term goals. Dividing a long-term goal into smaller achievable goals can make the feeling of success more tangible. For example, a long-term professional goal could be to beome a more active member in your school’s learning community. A short-term objective could be to assume different leadership positions, such as facilitator, presenter or documenter, during team meetings with colleagues.
Once you have your two lists, develop a plan. Take out your calendar and ask yourself: Which goals can I work on independently over the summer to prepare for the coming year? Which goals will require additional supports and resources? When and how will I measure success?
A detailed reflection log is helpful in recording progress. Log entries might contain lessons learned from observing others in leadership roles as well as specific reflections on personal experiences within each leadership position. You might ask administrators or colleagues for feedback on your goal progression. In what areas were you successful and in which ones do you need to improve?
With each success, remember to reinforce it by rewarding yourself. Once you have achieved a short-term goal, begin the process over again. One example might be to now assume a leadership role in conducting a schoolwide professional development workshop.
Effective teachers engage in this cyclical process of lifelong learning and model it for their students, student teachers and colleagues. They also take time to take good care of themselves so they can serve their schools and students to the fullest.
Smile — you are off to a great year ahead!
Tara Gensler is a special education teacher at PS 84 in Manhattan and Shirley Charles is a special education teacher at PS 771 in Brooklyn.
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