Why do you teach? Ponder that for a moment. Is it because you like to make your own schedule, enjoy your summers off, or loved grad school so much that you decided to never leave? While those are excellent perks of the job, hopefully in your mental meanderings, your love for students was front and center. At this point in the school year as you’re grading a 6-inch-high pile of papers, wondering if your students were listening at all, your love for them may have been only a fleeting thought. But shouldn’t our “why” be because we desire, in the depths of our soul, to guide students toward their passion? If that didn’t make your list then perhaps a little reflection is in order.

I truly believe that the academic calendar was intentionally created to provide teachers time to reflect and rejuvenate (sorry MAT and COUN faculty…you may have to do this in smaller, more intense doses)! It’s also a time for us to shift our focus and be the learner as we engage in more focused research and study, perhaps attend conferences, and connect with our colleagues over new ideas.

Make the most of this time! In my pre-internship course I take students through an exercise using the Rokeach Value Survey where they evaluate their own terminal and instrumental values, and from that, create a personal vision statement (follow the links for the assignment). They consistently report that assignment was one of the most valuable assignments they’ve ever been asked to do. Why is that? I think it’s because we rarely give ourselves the head space to really think about what we value most.

Re-visit your core values. Is most of your time being spent engaged in activities that further your own personal mission? If not, is there anything you could change about your life or about the way that you teach to help keep you on mission? Read your personal mission statement daily…or even monthly. Be reflective and self-evaluative. When you wake up, ask yourself “what is the ONE THING I will do today that will help me get to where I want to be?”

Truly, when you know your “why,” your “what” has more meaning.

Have a fantastic, reflective summer!

It’s that time of year that we love to hate. When the pomp and circumstance of commencement is finally over, we’ve submitted our final grades, and reveled once again in a job well done, we get an email that our eSETs are ready for viewing. If you’re like me, your immediate response is, “here it comes…” followed by the fleeting thought that “surely they’ll have glowing things to say about me and my course.”

Imposter syndrome is REAL and we’ve all experienced it. If you haven’t then you probably have some room for genuine self-reflection. In either case, however, the question always arises, “What do I do with negative student evaluations?”

In Hodges and Stanton’s article (2007), “Translating Comments on Student Evaluations into the Language of Learning,” they acknowledge that often times, student comments reflect the student’s perception of how interested we were in them personally. If we read deeper, however, comments may also reveal struggles faced by many novice learners. The authors encourage faculty to “use these insights as part of a scholarly approach to teaching, making meaningful adjustments to future classes and informing curricular choices in productive ways.”

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