Beginning Teacher Interstate Connections: Looking Back to Move Forward

Greetings, Instructors! 

Do you see what I see??? Yep, it’s light at the end of the tunnel! We are weeks away from the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.  The past two academic years have been unlike any other.  As this year comes to a close, we can all finally be more hopeful for brighter days ahead as many elect to roll up their sleeves for vaccination in the continuing fight against Covid-19. As we begin to write the conclusion to the final chapter of this academic year and before we look forward to returning to a “normal” form of a traditional school setting, it is imperative that we pause and reflect on the whole journey that has brought us to the present moment.  So, grab a pen and your reflection journal as we look back to move forward. 

Classroom Instruction:

Congratulations! You are adding a year to your experience as a classroom teacher!   That is certainly an accomplishment worthy of a celebration. Now, I encourage you to reflect on your experience this year as a beginning teacher. Yes…the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens. Take a few minutes, breathe deeply, and think about your year. After taking a few moments in deep thought, take some time to actually reflect and write down your responses to the following questions: 1) What instructional practices have served you and your scholars well? 2) What instructional practices would you like to improve upon? 3) What classroom management strategies worked well with scholars? Are there procedures or other practices such as Restorative Practices that you would like to revisit or implement in the fall? If certain instructional practices, classroom procedures, or other teaching techniques did not work well for you, or more importantly, your scholars, rethink and revise how those practices, procedures, and other techniques will best serve scholars when school resumes.

Professional Growth:

In addition to the time you spend reflecting on your classroom instruction, you must also take time to reflect on your own professional growth. Again, this is where I encourage you to take a few moments to tune out the noise and spend some time alone with yourself to allow for genuine reflection. What goals did you set for yourself this academic year? Were you successful in achieving those goals? If not, no worries. It’s totally acceptable and widely encouraged to carry over your Professional Development Plan (PDP) goals to the next academic year. In the next coaching session with your NTSP Coach, discuss your reflection responses and get specific guidance on how to create a plan to move forward. Other reflection questions you may want to consider when thinking about your professional growth may include the following:

  • What type of professional development activities can I engage with that will help to support my PDP goals or identified areas of improvement? 
  • What am I doing to promote equity and inclusion of all of my scholars in my classroom and school?

Undoubtedly, the year 2020 taught us that the fight for social justice, equity, and inclusion in our PK-12 institutions of learning is far from over, as it tremendously impacts the scholars we serve. The year 2020 has also taught us that representation matters! I challenge you to ensure the materials and practices in your classroom (PK-12) incorporate what Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop calls mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Creating an environment that allows your Black and Brown scholars to see “mirrors,” lessons that reflect their own positive culture to build their cultural identity, and “windows,” resources and lessons that allow them to understand and respect others’ experiences and perspectives, not only creates a sense of belonging but also helps to increase student engagement. Works like a charm, promise!

Whether it’s your 1st year or your 30th year, reflecting is the one skill you’ll want to use frequently because it is one of the most powerful tools used to create impactful student-centered lessons, increase student achievement, and maintain your effectiveness as an educator.  Looking back to move forward will allow for growth and new opportunities both personally and professionally.

Contributor: Adreian Pitts, Ed.D., UNCG and Appalachian State

NC NTSP Blog Team: Bradley Sasser- ECU, Sandy Corbett- ECU, Jackie Aponte -UNC, Lori Best- UNCW/WCU/FSU, Kathy Fields- UNC, Adreian Pitts-UNCG/APP State, Jami Graham-UNCP, Maghan Kirschner, UNC

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