June 20, 2022
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
On the last day of our yearlong Inspired Teaching Institutes, we invite our teacher-participants to reflect on what they’ve learned and what they’ve experienced over the course of the school year. We gather in a circle and ask, “What are you taking with you?”
Responses range from “new strategies to engage my students” to “a deeper understanding of why, and how, to care for myself” to “activities to make math accessible and fun for my students.”
This simple question What are you taking with you? offers learners an opportunity to synthesize discoveries they’ve made as they’ve puzzled through problems, navigated challenges, and built relationships.
It can generate a robust list – of concepts examined; ideas explored; questions generated; and information learned about academic content and about ourselves, our communities, and our country.
So as the 21-22 school year winds down, I offer you this question to pose to your students and yourself.
What are you taking with you?
When asking your students, encourage them to create one list of responses to share with the class, and another list to keep private. Do the same with your own responses.
Here are more end-of-year questions to consider asking your students, and yourself:
What’s something you couldn’t do or didn’t understand at the start of the school year that you can do/understand now?
What’s something about which you’ve changed your mind since the beginning of the school year?
What’s something that’s changed in our community or country in the past year?
In addition to fostering personal reflection, questions like these can engage students in exploring history, including history being made in real-time. Just over one year ago, for instance, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Though this important day has been celebrated in African American communities across the country for over 150 years, it was not a Federal holiday until a year ago – and that’s a meaningful change. Imagine sending your students off into summer break full of curiosity about the history and significance of Juneteenth, and about other aspects of our country’s history as well.
As you support your students in cleaning out their desks and lockers, as you make sure they return their textbooks and overdue library books, I encourage you to carve out a few minutes to ask, “What are you taking with you?”
As for me, I’m taking with me an ever-growing appreciation for you – the school leaders, classroom teachers, specials teachers, instructional aides, and support staff who inspire, engage, push, and uplift students. Who make school a safe and nurturing place even in the face of so many external pressures. Who serve as my co-conspirators in making school the kind of place that inspires students and teachers to say “Hooray For Monday!” every week.
That’s what I’m taking with me.
What are you talking with you?
More Ways to Reflect this Week
So often we do surveys at the end of the year they are too extensive to be useful and too overwhelming to process. Using something simple like the 3-2-1 format can give you useful information without requiring hours to process. Here are some examples:
- 3 things you enjoyed learning this year.
- 2 things you wish we had learned more about.
- 1 word to describe this class for students who take it next year.
- 3 things your student shared with you about this class this year.
- 2 things you wish had gone differently for your child in my class.
- 1 tip you would give to parents of children in my class next year.
Sometimes when we reflect on an experience it helps to situate ourselves in an imaginative space. See what happens with these prompts both if you use them for yourself and if you use them with your students. You can also come up with several of these and make a choice board where students pick which form of reflection they would like to try. What can you learn from the creative responses?
- If this school year were a color, what color would you say it was and why? (Consider having students color squares with the colors they chose and put together a paper “quilt” with these pieces. Take a photo and send it to them on the last day of school.)
- What would you choose as a theme song for this year and why? (If your students try this one, consider creating a playlist from their songs!)
- Imagine this year like a road trip. Create a map to show the journey and label the key the spots you visited along the way. Have students share their maps with one another, noting the similarities and differences between what stood out for each.
- Create an interpretive dance that captures your experience this school year. Students can do this alone or in pairs or groups.
- Think about the class as parts of a whole. If the class were a car, what part of the car would each person in the class represent and why? What about a pizza, a home, a forest, a plant or an animal cell. (See if you can refer back to a complex system or concept you learned in class this year!)