Reflecting On This Past Year

Reflecting On This Past Year 

What a year it has been. Whether you are finishing your first year or your 20th, there's nothing quite like that feeling of relief that hits you after you have made it summer. Your students are off on summer adventures, grades are done and your classroom is clean and ready for the new school year. Before you even start thinking about planning for next year, and I know who you are ambitious teacher friends, take a few minutes to reflect on the past school year. There were probably ups and downs, successes and failures, and lots and lots of memories.  Take a little bit of time to pull out those nuggets that will help you grow in the year to come. Here are some great ways to use your experiences from this school year to make next year even better.


Take some time to reflect on the successes and things you want to change from this past year

Take A Deep Breath

Take a second to take a deep breath and remember how amazing you are.

You made it through a year of teaching. You are a hero. Take a deep breath and remind yourself how amazing you are! You have changed lives, given love and guidance to your students, and given countless hours of your personal time to make sure your students got the best education possible in the days you had them. 

You deserve all of the awards, recognition, and celebration the world has to offer. Being a teacher is as much challenging as it is rewarding. Right now, just give yourself a hug and permission to be so proud of yourself and everything you and your students accomplished this year. You deserve it. 

Glows And Grows

If you aren't familiar with the concept of glows and grows, it's basically a way to categorize anything into positive experiences (glows) and those that could have gone better (grows).  Putting this past year into perspective is important, but you also don't want to be too negative or hard on yourself. That's why I love using glows and grows instead of saying "What I did well." and "What I did wrong." A quick mindset adjustment will help you get the most out of the experiences of the past year.

I love writing down my glows and grows.  A T Chart is a great way to do this.  But if you are a doodler, you might also like writing your glows inside some doodled light bulbs and your grows on the leaves of a hand-drawn tree.  And if you enjoy journaling, you just might want to grab a notebook and get writing.  The method of documenting your glows and grows is not as important as taking the time to reflect on the year. 


Start with the glows and write down everything that went well for you and your students this past year. I mean EVERYTHING! Pull out your calendar or planner if you need to. 

It might be tough to get started, especially if you haven't done this before.  Here are some ideas to help you get started: 

Write down your glows and grows from the year to help you set meaningful goals for the next school year.
  • Seating arrangements or classroom layout
  • Successful lesson plans
  • Classroom activities your students loved
  • Classroom procedures
  • Daily schedule
  • Behavior policies that worked
  • Special events you and your students really loved
  • Field trips you thought went really well
  • Interactions with colleagues, administration, and parents

Don't forget to include some personal items on your glows list as well. Maybe you did well managing your time at school and didn't have a lot of grading or planning to do at home this year. If you and your family did something fun together one weekend or during a break, write that down too. The glows list is for everything awesome this past school year. 


Remember, this isn't the place to start writing down everything that went wrong this year. It's easy to categorize things that happened into something "bad", but just like you tell your students, it's a learning opportunity. Switch up your mindset and focus on what could have been better.

Write down everything you feel could have gone better this year.  Think through all different aspects of teaching including:

  • Parent communication
  • Lessons and activities that didn't go as well as expected
  • Classroom management that didn't work or you didn't get a lot of buy-in from students
  • Classroom Organization
  • Beginning of the year or end of the year stress
  • Homework or grading that took a lot of your personal time
  • Classroom procedures you want to improve on
  • Professional and personal relationships that caused stress

Remember, the grows column is for things you want to make changes to in order to improve on during the next year.  This isn't a master list of all your faults and failures.  The goal is to use the list to create a couple of goals for the future.  

Why And How?

Now it's time to think about those glows and grows as a starting place for your goals for next year.  But before you jump into that, just take a minute to look at what you wrote down.  It's pretty amazing all that was accomplished in one school year! 

These goals are professional and/or personal goals that you want to set for yourself.  You can think of them as New School Year Resolutions.  We aren't talking about lesson planning yet though. There will be plenty of time for that.  Instead look for some broad categories in things you wrote down. These often make great goals.

Think about how your grows can help you have a better year next year.
Another great way is to go back to your glows and grows and add a WHY or HOW. Go through your glows and add a quick note that explains WHY it was a glow.  Then go through the grows and a note that explains HOW you can improve on it in the future.  

For example, if you listed parent communication as an area where you need to grow, you could write, "I will commit to sending out one parent email a week.", or "I will set expectations for parent/teacher communication for my parents at the beginning of the year and stick to it." Writing your grows in this way naturally sets your goals for the next school year. 

Ready, Set, Goals!

Put it all together to make a list of goals.  It's really important to be realistic as you do this.  This is one reason I like to do this at the end of the school year and not after I've rested and relaxed for a month during summer.  What I think I can accomplish is entirely differentat these two points in time.   

I suggest making a list of 5-10 goals. You don't want to overwhelm yourself or set yourself up for a struggle. Pull 5-10 of your glows and grows from your "why" and "how" papers and write an "I will..." statement. 

Set meaningful goals to help your next year be even better
Examples of "I will..." statements could include:
  • I will continue to use the marble jar class reward system.
  • I will commit to only one hour of lesson planning on weekends. 
  • I will plan field trips at least 2 months in advance.
  • I will use the last 15 minutes of the day to build classroom community with activities and games.
  • I will get up earlier to be sure I get to school on time in the morning. 
Setting achievable goals for yourself will be the keys to success next year. Be sure to keep your goals list somewhere you will see it regularly like on a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, as a home or lock screen on your phone, or even on your desk at school. It's important for you to see and remember these goals often.  This will keep them fresh in your mind where you are more likely to act on them.

Lesson Planning with Glows and Grows

Okay, Okay. I hear you, overachievers. I know how tempting it is to be thinking of next year's lessons before the dust has even settled from this year. If you are one of those teachers who is ready to dig into some lesson planning right away, you can use the glows and grows technique to help you reflect on the lessons you and your students completed this past year. Write down every lesson you think went well and why. Then write down the lessons you wish had gone better and how you would improve them. 

Lesson planning for the next school year is simple once you have written down your glows and grows
This gives you a great list to look at to decide what lessons you want to keep for next year and which lessons need a little revamping. 

Understanding why a lesson was successful is just as important as figuring out how to fix one that wasn't. If you have a lesson plan that students really loved because it got them outside and using hands-on learning, you know to try to plan more of that next year. 

If you had a lesson that students really struggled with. Think about why. Was the pace too fast? Was the topic difficult? Whatever the reason, be sure to write your statement about HOW you will make it better. 

Once you have your lists, it will be easy for you to cross off the lessons you don't want to keep and circle those that you do. This will give you a jumpstart on planning successful lessons you and your students will enjoy next school year. 

Have A Growth Mindset For Yourself

Give yourself permission to not be perfect.  We don't need to strive to be Super Teachers because that often comes only when other important things like personal time and family get neglected.  Instead let's strive to be the best Human Teachers we can be. No matter how many years you have been in the classroom, there is always room for improvement. 

Just like we tell our students throughout the year, have a growth mindset. Something didn't go the way you wanted? No problem! List it as a learning opportunity and think about what you can learn from it.  Consider starting your glows and grows list in the back of your planner.  Ask your students why they liked or didn't like an activity. This will help you get a jump start on your goals next year. 

Remember that your mindset is a very powerful thing. Be honest without yourself and realistic with your expectations.  Strive to be better today than yesterday and give yourself grace.  Then . . . with everything you have . . .  just go for it! Pin It to Save It!
Be sure to pin this to your favorite teacher Pinterest board so you can come back when you are ready to set your goals for the new school year. Take some time for yourself this summer and remember how amazing you are. You deserve it!

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