My “Things to Do Better Next Year” List

by | 06.17.19

Andrea Marshbank is a teacher in Kansas. Follow her on Twitter @msmarshbank.

As summer starts, I’m about to sit down with a Google Doc I created last August, before the school year started. It’s called, “Things to Do Better Next Year.”

It sounds like a to-do list, but it’s much more than that: It’s a journal I added to all school year long – and now, it’s a collection of opportunities and reflections that will guide my planning for the year ahead.

Reflection is part of my daily teaching practice. Whenever I hit a snag, I write about it in the Doc. I might write something as simple as, “Make copies earlier,” or as big as, “Scrap this unit. Read Gallagher and Kittle’s 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents and find a way to restructure.”

I also invite my students’ feedback throughout the year. At the end of each unit, I ask my students to write a reflective piece on their experiences, closing with a question like, “What could have been done differently that you would have appreciated?” And I add their feedback to another, more detailed curriculum planning Doc.

This past year, my students let me know that they loved reading short stories and choosing their own reading books, but some workbook practice I gave them didn’t go over well. In their reflections, they wrote, “You said the purpose of this class is to empower us as readers, but the workbooks make us feel like we’re dumb readers.” That hit me right in the chest, but it wasn’t a bad thing. It was a chance to say, “That’s a good point. I’ll make that actionable!” This summer, I’ll pull those lessons and find a way to teach them with more engagement and less rote work.

My Google Doc journaling system is one way I keep moving forward and growing as a teacher. Just the act of putting something on my list is an important part of my practice – once I’ve added it, a moment of stress becomes a promise of change.

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