This year has provided a new challenge: going long periods of time without any feedback and thus relatively little guidance about my teaching. I still reflect on my practice but now it’s a solo experience, and something I have to remind myself to do as often as possible.
Take the time to jot down what went well in one lesson every week, or every day if you can. Get colleagues to observe you as often as possible, and return the favour. Reflecting on your teaching is the only way to improve it.
One of the things I’ve found hardest about being a second-year teacher is the lack of observed lessons I’ve had. Some might find that surprising, given how stressful an observed lesson can be to plan and deliver, but it’s only now that they’ve become so infrequent that I’ve realised how valuable they are.
During both PGCE year and NQT year I was getting so much feedback about my teaching it was hard to act on it because there was so much to consider. When planning each lesson I was drawing on several pieces of advice from each of four or five different teachers, some of which was entirely conflicting. The challenge was in selecting one or two targets to focus on for each lesson. This was much more the case during my PGCE, but it felt similar on my NQT year given how quickly observations by line mangers/senior leaders/mentors seemed to come around.
Any teacher that thinks back on a lesson they just taught is sure to be able to identify a couple of simple ways to improve it next time, but the important and difficult bit is taking the time to write it down (and to read it again when it matters). I personally find that Evernote is a brilliant tool for this – I write a quick ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ on my phone on the commute home.
Even more importantly, a few teachers and I have formed a set of ‘coaching trios’ in our department. Every half term or so we observe one other teacher’s lesson and help them reflect on how to improve. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Every time I’ve been ‘coached’ by a colleague in this way I’ve had incredibly relevant advice, and also been given an opportunity to be proud of all the little things I get right. Everyone needs a little praise!
Without reflecting on your practice, with or without someone to talk to about it, you might not take the time to acknowledge what you achieve every day, and on the other hand may end up making the same mistakes every lesson. The trap of second-year teaching.