The end of the summer is upon us, and teachers everywhere find themselves thinking about the best way to begin a great year. In every classroom there are books to get ready, seats to assign, bulletin boards and doors to decorate, and lessons to plan. It is so easy to find oneself buried in these practicalities, but I like to begin the year a little differently.
One of the most important lessons I learned in my teacher education program was to actively figure out what outcomes I am looking for in a unit before I begin my lesson planning. Since those early days of teaching, I have always found that when I work backwards, my plans are at their best. While this may seem obvious in regards to individual lessons and even units, it is also very important for setting the overall tone and structure of my classes and classroom.
In order to do this I find it useful to do some reflection about the outcomes and priorities I have for the entire year. In this vein I share with you some questions that I use for self-reflection and direction. By keeping my answers to these questions in mind as I plan my lessons, my interactions with my students, my units, and my year, I find that I improve my teaching and my class in ways that I might not otherwise be able to.
Fifteen Self-Reflection Questions for Teachers as the Year Begins
(You can find these questions in printable format with additional suggestions for answering and using them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click here to check them out–they are free to download!)
- Why do I teach?
- In one or two sentences, what is the most important thing my students leave the room with this year?
- How can I keep this (question 2) a priority?
- What three words do I hope my students will use to describe me?
- What three words do I hope my students will use to describe my class?
- What is one new thing I want to try this year?
- What is my plan for implementing this new thing?
- When I get frustrated this year, what are three things I can do to reset?
- What is my biggest strength as a teacher?
- How will I utilize this strength?
- What is my biggest struggle as a teacher?
- How can I compensate for this struggle?
- Who is the best teacher I have ever known?
- What is one thing I can do to be more like him or her?
- What is one thing I want to do this year that in no way relates to teaching or my career?
Happy Back-to-School season everyone, and…
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This Week’s Journal Questions
Since the questions above are all pretty heavy, how about something a little lighter…
For everyone: What is your theme song? Why is this the perfect theme song for you?
A Recipe from My Kitchen:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 6 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (if you are using a low fat version, you can substitute heavy cream for 1/2 cup of the yogurt)
- 3/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries
- 3/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- Hint: This is a great recipe to use the homemade maraschino cherries from a few weeks ago!
- Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour a fluted tube cake pan.
- Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each egg.
- Add the cherry juice, water, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix well.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until well combined.
- Add to butter mixture to flour alternating with the sour cream in five additions (flour-cream-flour-cream-flour).
- Divide batter in half.
- To one half add cherries, almonds, and remaining almond and vanilla extract. Mix well.
- To the other half add chocolate and cocoa. Mix well.
- Spoon half of the cherry mixture evenly into the bottom of the cake pan. Cover with half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat so you have a total of four layers.
- Bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Invert on wire rack and remove from pan. Cool completely.
- Cut using a serrated knife. Serve with whipped cream.