Learning from experience

My first year of teaching biology was challenging, but I made it! Do you have any suggestions for what I should do to improve for next year?  —C, Virginia

Congratulations for completing your first year! A good way to prepare for next year is to reflect on this one, learning from your experiences.

How did you know a lesson was successful? What did you do when things didn’t go as planned? Were your classroom management routines and procedures effective? How did you deal with disruptive students? How well were you able to access and use the technologies available in your school? Are there any strategies you would like to consider, in terms of instruction, classroom management, or communications?

Were you surprised by any misconceptions or lack of experience among your students? Should you change the amount of time or emphasis invested in some topics? Did you have an effective combination of content, processes and interdisciplinary connections? Do you have any gaps in your own knowledge base?

Were your lesson plans detailed enough to adapt or modify? How well did assignments and projects align to unit goals and lesson objectives? Did your lab activities go beyond cookbook demonstrations to help students develop their own areas of inquiry? Did you provide opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning (e.g., through a science notebook, comparing their work to the rubrics)?

Did your students seem to enjoy learning science? Did you enjoy teaching and learning with them?

Your reflections can be the basis for next year’s goals. It’s tempting to say, “I’ll think about this when school starts. But if you think, reflect, organize, and plan now, you’ll have more time in the fall for getting your second year off to a good start.

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