Reflecting on My Education

I just had my first evaluation of the year and one of the questions that I had to answer was about reflecting and analyzing. Well, it was worded as a statement, so it really wasn’t a question, but the point holds. So here is the question, or statement.

Discuss the ways in which you analyze and reflect on your teaching.

The moment I read this I was instantly appalled. Reflecting on my practices as a teacher has become so ingrained into the fiber of my being that it is nearly impossible for me to think about teaching without reflecting on my actions. I felt like someone was asking me how I think about breathing. Can’t remember the last time I thought about breathing.

But since I am a math teacher let me think about the original question as a contradiction. Picture the teacher who never reflects or analyzes his teaching. The class is the same year after year. If asked about student performance the answer always starts with a, “They,” as if the teacher never a gave a thought to his own actions.

“They didn’t study.”

“They didn’t turn in the assignment.”

“They didn’t pay attention.”

At no point is the teacher responsible. Usually this teacher gets defensive when asked about results, always thinking he has done his part and it’s always the students fault. I think this would be the straw man teacher that is usually lampooned in the media as the bad teacher, that teacher that shows up at 7:45 and leaves at 3:15. This teacher would show up, lecture, then test, and that would be it. Think Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller. Anyone? Anyone?

But in reality this teacher doesn’t exist. I know we all have different methods, different personalities, even different philosophies, but I have never met a teacher that literally does not question their own practice. Even the few teachers I know that might not question their methods will question their beliefs. They might wonder about the purpose of a homework assignment, or wonder about topics that should be covered, or wonder if their own expectations of what the profession should be are misguided.

So when I came to this question on my OTES evaluation I just really didn’t know how to answer. I mean reflection has become such a part of me that I don’t know how to shut it off. I literally cannot stop my mind during the school year. I am constantly wondering about how I should change my presentations. What information to put on an assessment? How hard can I push the students? Should I change the grouping in class? How can I assist this one student, but keep the rest of the class engaged? It doesn’t stop. It hangs with me over the weekend, over the summers, even over the years. The “I shouldn’t haves” and the “I should haves.” Sometimes I act on those reflections, sometimes I don’t, but they never leave.

And that is what I want the focus of this blog to be, the questions I have asked myself over the years. I can’t stop the deluge of thoughts, but I hope that I can find a dumping ground for them. No math, no practice, no concepts, just me and my thoughts in its own little delusional world.

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