Grab your journal and take a few moments to prayerfully reflect on the last school year.
By Rachel Gleeson
Another school year is coming to an end. Before we know it the chaos of these last few weeks will give way to summer. Then we’ll all be able to take a breath. Before completely slipping into the summer though, consider taking some time to prayerfully reflect on the last school year. Your August self will thank you.
These questions are meant to be open-ended and give you food for thought as you reflect on your life. I recommend bringing these questions to prayer and journaling or reflecting on each.
What went well this year?
Maybe you feel like this year was a disaster or maybe you think it went surprisingly well. But, undoubtedly, something did go well and it’s important to recognize it so that you can keep the positive momentum going into next year and beyond.
So ask yourself, what happened this year that was truly good? What benefitted your students? Maybe it was the way you structured lessons or how you introduced a concept. Maybe what went well this year was that unplanned activity that you thought up on the spot or that new review game you tried. What little victories did you have? How did you reach out to struggling students? How did you build relationships with parents?
What’s one thing that could have gone better?
It’s probably easy to think of moments you could have handled better or something you tried that didn’t work. One of the best things about teachers I know is how they constantly strive to do better. It makes us a dynamic bunch. Unfortunately, this same tendency can also sometimes lead to creating a laundry list of mistakes and issues. Rather than doing that, consider just a few key themes. Pick one area where you wish you could have done better. How will you improve for next year? Focus on how this will help your students (and you) succeed.
What helped you be your best?
Did you try a new way of planning your lessons or a new resource that you really benefitted from? Maybe it was a new schedule or routine that made the year go smoother. Was a there a teacher or administrator in your life this year that was a go-to resource. Make sure to thank them!
One thing that is sure to help you be your best is taking care of yourself. The reality is that we can’t do our best unless we’re at our best. So how did you help yourself this year? How did you set aside time for leisure? For relaxing? How did you balance work and the rest of your life? What habit do you want to continue into next year or create that will help you take care of yourself? I know a number of colleagues who have certain times of the week or day when they don’t check school email. When we set boundaries like that everyone wins.
How did you love your students?
Our students, no matter how challenging, deserve our love. To love them means to want what is best for them. We should show them compassion and respect in all our interactions. However, love doesn’t always look like warm smiles and candy (though both play their role). Wanting what is best for our students sometimes means giving them exactly what they don’t want like consequences for misbehavior and things like homework.
How did you love your students this year? How did you love them even when you didn’t like them or were frustrated with them? How did you love them even when it meant not being the nice teacher?
How did you live your faith?
As Catholic teachers, we stand as witnesses of our faith in a special way to our students, families, and coworkers. We are called to show Christ’s love to all we meet. It’s a terrifying calling but our most important one.
How did your faith impact your teaching? How did you bring the faith to your students? How did you grow in your faith this year? Maybe you brought in prayer or the saints to your teaching. Maybe you made time for personal prayer and saw that bear fruit. How will you continue to live out your faith next year?
Now that you’ve gone through these questions:
Create a list of your top 5 best moments or practices from this year that you want to continue into next year. Then come up with a list of 5 new things you want to do to make next school year even better. Once you have these manageable lists, set them aside somewhere you’ll find them in August. They will serve as a good starting place for a great year.
For now, go enjoy your summer!
Rachel Gleeson is a middle-school and high-school theology teacher and liturgy coordinator at a PreK-12 Catholic school in Wisconsin.