It Ain’t Over ’til the Reflection Is Done

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Violin lesson at BJA, Greenville, SC, April 18, 2018. (Hal Cook)

Please excuse the grammar in the title, but I hope I got your attention. I’m talking about lessons—those 30- to 40-minute packages of education that we spend vast amounts of time preparing and delivering to the students in our classrooms. While it may appear that the lesson is over after we have assessed the learning and put away our materials, it’s really not. Not yet. There’s one more step that an effective teacher will take: reflection.

The conscientious teacher will not close the books on the lesson until reflection has taken place.

  • What went well?
  • What could be improved?
  • Did the students seem to enjoy the process?
  • Was the lesson organized sufficiently?
  • Did the assessment show the desired results from the learning?
  • Was the pace satisfactory?
  • Did the lesson meet the needs of the students?
  • Is there a better or different activity that could be used next time?
  • Did the students achieve their potential?
  • Did the lesson address all modalities of learning (visual, aural, kinesthetic)?
  • Was it multisensory?
  • Did we adequately adapt for our special needs students?
  • Was the lesson effective?

One of my music education graduates, Rachel, is teaching elementary music in Pennsylvania. She recently wrote to me,

“One of the most important things I learned in my undergraduate program that helps me teach music in my classroom today is to be a reflective teacher. I interned with an elementary music teacher during my junior year who modeled her reflective thoughts for her lessons. When it was my turn to teach, she forced me to analyze everything I did and explore alternatives to help all students learn more effectively. Today I find myself always reflecting on lessons and improving on them as I teach the next class.”

Rachel goes on to say that she and her husband Kyle “are teaching second grade Sunday school. I think I drive him nuts because every Sunday after class I analyze every part of the lesson out loud on the way home!”

You’ll notice this reflection is more about the TEACHER’s improvement or change rather the students’. I still remember an adage that one of my undergraduate education professors often repeated: “If the students didn’t learn, the teacher didn’t teach.” Ouch. That hits very close to home. And while I don’t believe that axiom is 100% true every time, I do think we need to look at ourselves regularly and reflect on what we can improve. How can we better serve our students and make an even greater impact on their lives?