Take Time for Reflection: Advice from Clairessa Cruz

Graduate from The University of Texas at Arlington, 2015

So many times on my drive to and from school I catch myself self-reflecting on a lesson or thinking how I
can get students interested in the lesson with a joke or song to make instruction relevant to my young students. This, my friends is reflection and growth. For example, if you were to walk into my classroom spring semester you would see a totally different class from the one at the beginning of the year. This is because my style of teaching and interest of my students have changed with each new school day.

Today in my classroom, you will hear and see six-and-seven-year olds chanting our classroom motto, rapping out phonic songs, or working independently on a skill.   But this change in my classroom did not happen overnight.  This change took place on a daily basis of self-reflection. And by that I mean self-reflection of myself, my teaching style, and getting to know my student’s interest and their learning styles.

Some call me an over-achiever, while others say I’m a perfectionist, but whatever label you categorize me in, it does not change that I hold myself to high expectations and desire to be the BEST teacher EVER!  Therefore, self-reflection is a must when it comes to my lesson plans, teaching style, and student’s learning style.  I’m constantly reflecting on what I can do to update lessons, add student’s interest into current TEKS, and even at times humbling myself by others asking for guidance and advice.

As I drove home on a recent evening, I flashed back to being in Dr. Myers’ and Dr. Melton’s class, recalling the formal observations Dr. Hulings conducted on me during my junior and senior year!  I remember as a junior and senior feeling frustrated after each lesson plan and/or observation and being required to  fill out a post-observation form, which needless to say was “REFLECT, DEAR CHILD, REFLECT!” Of course the arrogant and inner self perfectionist thought they were just trying to withhold more points from my grade, but now that I am on the other end as an assessor and no longer a first-year teacher, my thoughts and views have drastically changed.  And after years of persistent practice, I now practice self-reflection on myself and my students on a daily basis.

So I challenge you to self-reflect on who you are as a teacher and who your students are in today’s classroom.  Maybe you can identify with my pain as I did as a student-teacher, or maybe you’re a veteran teacher and thinking “Blah-Blah-Blah I know, self-reflect…”  But either way take time to sincerely reflect on you and your learners. I plead with you, please don’t short change yourself or your leaders of tomorrow by not humbling yourself by self-reflecting on your lessons and teaching style.   I challenge you to consider the following: Do you need to start having more interesting higher order thinking questions? Do you need to add bullets to every single supply needed to assure the lesson starts on time? Do you need to have a better hook to intrigue your students to your lesson? Do you need to use your student’s personal interests in the classroom and modify it to your lessons?

Don’t be so proud to not ask for guidance from your colleagues or student’s. From firsthand experience, sometimes getting colleagues or peers feedback may sting for a while, but the benefits can last for a lifetime!  As I mentioned earlier I’m a 110% Perfectionist, but if I did not humble myself and ask my students questions of their interest or learning styles, or seek guidance from my colleagues I honestly don’t believe I could sit here and write about this from my heart and soul!

Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory says all learners can learn and that we all have one learning style more dominate than another.  Although, I myself feel I am equal in more than one, I also know that this knowledge has allowed me to self-reflect in who I am as a teacher and who my students are as learners.

Finally, before I conclude, please don’t think this piece of advice does not apply to you based on the grades that you have taught or the numbers of years that you’ve been teaching because reflection is at the core of quality instruction. In fact, the most eye-opening reflections have come from the mouths of innocent students with the passion to learn and colleagues who offered the best ideas and advice.  I’m glad I was listening. And that’s what I’ll be thinking of on the ride down Cooper Street this afternoon.

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