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Literacy Partners

Taking Stock: Celebrating, Reflecting, and Goal-Setting for the Rest of the School Year

It’s hard to believe we’re almost to winter break. This time is a natural turning point in the school year, where the buzz and newness of fall has faded into a smooth predictability and the engine of the classroom is up and running. We know our kids and they in turn know us. The days have a predictable flow (for the most part!) and we’re looking ahead to all of the continued growth and progress that we know will come in the new year. This pivotal time of year gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect, goal-set, and celebrate before taking a much-needed and beyond well-deserved break.

This is a guide to taking stock and celebrating all of the hard work you and your students have put in this fall before determining the most essential goals for the new year.

Here is our LP cycle of reflection to get you ready to fully embrace and enjoy your winter break and embark on the new year feeling rejuvenated and recharged with renewed energy and purpose for 2024!

Step 1: Reflect

The Why:

This point in the year is a natural time to stop and reflect on the school year so far. Of course, each day provides opportunities to constantly reflect and refine, but as we approach the midpoint of the school year, it is extremely helpful to set aside intentional time for reflective practices. As teachers, we are constantly striving to outgrow ourselves and refine our teaching practices. Inquiry into our work can enable us to use what we have learned to inform our future teaching and adapt to the ever-changing and challenging landscape of education. Reflection is essential for student learning as well, and when we model behaviors of lifelong learners we are better equipped to support our students in their own metacognition about their role as learners.

The How:

Here are some tips to incorporate more reflection into your practice:

  1. Set aside dedicated reflection time. Carve out 20-30 minutes before winter break and block it off on your calendar or set aside time with your teaching team at your next team meeting to reflect on the year so far. Make it a non-negotiable on your agenda to ensure that you have uninterrupted time to reflect!
  • What were the successes of the year so far? What went well and in what ways have you improved in your teaching practice?
  • What are some areas that you want to improve upon? What are some areas that need more attention or focus? What could you do differently?
  • What specific and concrete actions can you take?
  • Who can support you with your goal? Do you have a friend, mentor, or peer to check in with?
  • Decide how to capture your reflections. Get an inviting journal or start recording voice memos to keep track of your reflections and ideas.
  • Include your students in the conversation! Provide time for your students to reflect on their growth so far this year. You can use a class survey or provide time for a written reflection. This could also be a great way to host a student-led discussion and see what your class reflections bring up!

Step 2: Goal-Set

The Why:

After reflecting on the year so far, it’s time to set some actionable goals. One of the most exciting parts of teaching is the continual opportunity to grow and improve, and practicing and modeling a growth mindset helps our students see that facing and addressing challenges is an integral part of the learning process. Goal-setting scaffolds the learning process and helps us progress monitor and seek resources to improve.

The How:

  1. Use your reflections to generate meaningful goals.
  2. Write down your goals for the year. Follow this framework to help you set actionable, realistic goals.
  • Specific — Does your goal target a specific area for improvement?
  • Measurable — Can you accurately measure your goal?
  • Achievable — Is your goal realistic?
  • Relevant — Is the goal relevant?
  • Timely — Does your goal have a specific timeline?

Looking for inspiration? Here are our ideas for goals to tackle this year.

  1. Deepen your pedagogy. Take a class, read a professional book, or visit a colleague’s classroom!
  2. Finetune your classroom management
  3. Create opportunities for family engagement
  4. Try out new educational technologies
  5. Get your classroom organized

Pro Tip: Help your students set their own individual goals! Before they go off on their break, set aside time for them to follow these steps for their own goal-setting for the new year. Their goals can be academic and of personal interest.

  1. Put goals in writing. Goals that are written are concrete and motivational.
  2. Be specific. Students can write their own SMART goals with this simple formula:
    1. I will _________
    2. By doing what?
    3. When? How? With Whom?
    4. Measured by…?
  3. Push your students to strive for appropriately challenging goals. We want them to stretch and outgrow themselves and this is a great opportunity to encourage high expectations.
  4. Help your students decide what will help them and how they will seek feedback and support. Part of the fun and motivation of setting goals is working on them in a supportive, collaborative group environment. This framing helps our students seek and receive feedback.

Step 3. Celebrate!

The Why:

One of the hallmarks of the holiday season is constant celebration. But in addition to making time for holiday parties and gatherings, we have to carve out specific time to celebrate all we have accomplished thus far with our classes. In fact, research suggests that celebrations have a positive effect on our health and well-being, according to a paper published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. Celebrations strengthen our security in our social networks and reinforce our feeling of community and interconnectedness, which is essential to a positive school culture. So take the time to have a celebration with your class and colleagues – and cite the research that supports it to really drive home the importance! Source.

The How:

  • Have a publishing party. Invite other classes or families to see students’ writing from the most recent unit.
  • Share favorite memories from the school year so far. Students could record a memory on Flipgrid or create visual representations of their fondest memories your class has created.
  • Invite students to share appreciation with each other before going off on their break. Giving kudos builds community. Your students will be surprised to see how giving compliments and appreciation feels just as good as receiving them!
  • Enjoy a treat together! The study cited above found that one of the three conditions for celebration is food enjoyed together, so make an excuse to bring that holiday treat for your class to enjoy.

Step 4: Rest

The Why:

Teaching is incredibly hard work! We have so much on our plates and are balancing so many different needs, but rest is an essential ingredient to productivity. Taking time to truly rest increases both our productivity and resilience.

The How:

  1. Create!
    • Give yourself time to explore a creative hobby. Draw, paint, play music, or write something for fun.
  2. Sleep!
  3. Cultivate gratitude.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season with your students, friends, and families!

Book Recommendations

Take your learning to the next level with these book recommendations.

Shifting the Balance by Jan Miller Burkins and Kari Yates

Unearthing Joy by Gholdy Muhammad

Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston

Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed

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