ProTip Wednesday: 6 Steps to be Productive in Summer Reflection

We now know that feedback is incredibly important to students’ growth, but that same feedback is also extremely beneficial for us—the teachers— to grow as well. Because isn’t teaching also always growing and changing? But it’s hard to start looking back because we were so ready to look forward come June 1st. Here are 6 steps I personally took to get my mind out of “I need summer break. Now.” to “I’m going to own it next year.”

Step 1. Gather the evidence

Like we mentioned yesterday, it’s very easy to give into summer break and just throw the forgotten projects and student surveys into the circular bin right now. It’s not as easy when it comes August and you’re trying to wrack your brain to remember if your lesson on Metamorphic rocks was successful. Be sure to gather:

  • Teacher evaluations
  • Long term plans
  • Standards taught this year
  • Lesson plans saved on your teacher desktop
  • Student surveys: beginning of the year, mid year, and end of the year
  • Snap pictures of your bulletin boards and desk arrangements
  • A list of all student names
  • One or two examples of every test, assignment, or notebook that you can find

Another great strategy to avoid scrambling for paperwork at the end of the year is to use Gradeable. Gradeable makes digital portfolios and the process of organizing artifacts simple and streamlined.


Step 2. Clean house

After gathering what you need to reflect, it’s time to clean house — also known as your classroom. It’s cathartic to throw out anything superfluous and truly start fresh for a summer of evaluating and iterating your craft.


Step 3. Decompress with the department

Before your fellow teachers leave with their ideas or extra materials, be sure to drop by and chat with your department. Not only will it help to blow some steam by reminiscing about the ups and downs of any school year, but it’s also a great time to informally reflect together and validate any successful universal planning efforts. There shouldn’t be any need to reinvent the wheel by yourself if you have an entire department full of friends. And are there teachers retiring? Don’t let them throw away years worth of time-tested lesson plans and materials without asking.


Step 4. Do a brain dump

A personal favorite, I like to do a kind of “brain dump” before going into organizing and evaluating, especially since my mind tends to forget the little details with time. A good exercise is to go to your favorite coffee shop and take your long term plan and standards list. Write comments in the margins of whatever you may remember. Good questions to start with are:

  • Was it successful? (Be sure to define what success means.)
  • Did the students enjoy this lesson?
  • Did you enjoy teaching this lesson?
  • Where there any learning obstacles?
  • Did it take too long to prep? Or was it easy to do?
  • What comments do you remember? What were the students’ reaction?
  • What is the general feeling or thought you have as you think back on this lesson?

Another way to organize this exercise is to make a two-column document where one column are lesson plans you taught this year and the right-hand column is where you could write comments, thoughts, and other general ideas.

Step 5. Say good-bye to each student

More than likely, the longer you teach, the more often you will have a “type” of student. For example, types like the student that could not concentrate because they liked visuals or kinesthetics better than note taking, or the student that could do mutivariable math equations mentally but could not finish their homework. I wrote each of my students a personalized letter which I used as a good period of reflection of what I thought achieved this year and what I remember about their personal lives. Many times I went back and referenced their beginning of the year surveys to help show them their growths and strengths.

If you do not write notes, you can also take that list of student names and go through a similar exercise as step 4. With each student, write down any event or feeling that pops to mind because it could help you with differentiation strategies for next year’s lesson plans.


Step 6. Face the feedback

Feedback from student surveys will be extremely useful but can also be hard to digest. Bring out a glass of wine and turn on your brave face because even if your students’ feedback and past work may be difficult to swallow, it will also help you grow. Keep a spreadsheet or notebook nearby to write down common comments and trends because you’ll need it later to evaluate old lesson plans.



Next week’s ProTip will be taking a deep dive on what is exactly in your box and your computer and figuring out what to toss and what to keep.

Want to get all your artifacts and assignments together digitally? Check out what Gradeable can do for you today:

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