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The Power of Summer Break Reflection

Janelle Cox

Congratulations, you’ve conquered yet another successful school year. While many of you are beginning to enjoy your long-awaited summer break, others are diving into teaching summer school or tutoring students who need help. Regardless of what your summer break plans may be, consider using this time to not only rest and relax, but to reflect upon the school year.

The one thing that makes effective educators really stand out is that they take time during the summer months to think about what went well during the school year and what did not. Engaging in self-reflection can be a powerful tool that can help you learn more about yourself as an educator, as well as help you to uncover strategies and new ideas that can help you in the future. Here are a few tips on how to make your summer break reflection time a productive one.

Map Your Ups and Downs During Summer Break

Everyone will have some peaks where things went really well, and some valleys where things didn’t go as planned during the school year. Your goal during summer break is to map out all of these high and low points so you can take a better look at them. Instead of just thinking about these moments in time, physically write them down on a piece of paper. You can start by folding your paper in half, and on one side write down things that went well, and on the other side the things that didn’t go so well. If you really want to dive into this self-reflection even more, you can make a list of categories for each section. For example, categories may be about reflecting on relationships with students, parents and colleagues, or teaching strategies that went well or failed. They can also be about transition times, behavior management techniques, or assessment and testing. Anything that you want to reflect upon can become a category. Once you’ve gotten everything written out in front of you, take some time to look at what you’ve written down. Taking a closer look at your highs and lows will give you a better idea of what you should and should not do next school year.

List Your Goals

Reflection is the key to improving yourself and your job as an educator. It can also be a great way to set your intentions for the next school year. However, before you can list your goals, you should ask yourself a few questions. Here are a few examples to get you started. 

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  • What are my short-term goals? What are my long-term goals?
  • Why are these goals important?
  • What are my goals for my students? How will I know when they’ve accomplished these goals?
  • Are these goals specific enough?
  • Are these goals helpful in 21st century education?

Now that you’ve asked yourself and hopefully answered some tough questions, you should have a better understanding of what your goals look like for the following school year. You can take it a step further and try and break down your long-term goals into smaller, more achievable goals. For example, if your long-term goal is to fully implement a flipped classroom by the end of the next school year, then you can break this goal down into smaller goals by flipping the classroom just a few times a week. Once you’ve listed your goals, then next it’s time to create a plan.

Develop a Plan

Lastly, you’ll want to develop a plan that will help you move forward during the next school year. Start by thinking about the habits that you want to keep. Maybe you love the way you start the day, or the way you are able to easily transition from subject to subject or class to class. Or maybe during your summer reflection, you found that your students really shine when you let them take the lead and make their own choices. Take these habits and continue do them.

Next, think about the habits that you want to change. You may have found out during your self-reflection that you’re not very good at utilizing technology, or that you don’t give your students enough time to study before a test. Now you need to come up with a plan on how you will change these habits and improve them.

Self-reflection is a lifelong process that can help you in every aspect of your life, not just in your career. When you take the time to utilize this effective professional development tool, it can help yield a deeper understanding of not only yourself and the way you teach, but how you can apply what you’ve found in the upcoming years. Reflection also helps to boost resilience. When you are able to look deeper into yourself and be OK with your mistakes, you’ll have a better ability to bounce back when things go awry during the school year. Use this summer to self-reflect so you can be the best version of yourself next school year.

Do you use self-reflection during your summer break? If so, what types of things have you found during your reflection process?


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.