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End-Of-Year Reflection for Teachers: 18 Questions to Ask Yourself [episode 129]


Click below to hear end-of-year teacher reflection:

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Overview of episode 129:

As teachers, we’re always trying to find different ways to improve our instruction, activities, lessons, and classroom management to better benefit our students and their learning. We also love gifting our future selves, so why not combine the two? Taking some time to reflect at the end of a school year can be extremely beneficial in order to have a better year in the fall. So, in today’s episode, we’re sharing some end-of-year teacher reflection questions to ask yourself in preparation for next year.

When doing an end-of-year teacher reflection, most just want to focus on the challenges and all the problems that arose throughout the year. However, that mentality leads to burnout and isn’t a true reflection of your year. Instead, add in some positive reflection and look back on what you did well, what your students learned, and what engaged them the most. Each of the 18 questions that revolve around six different areas of a teacher’s life incorporates both the challenges and the successes of the year. 

In order for an end-of-year teacher reflection to be effective, make sure you take some time to write down your responses and be intentional about your efforts. Doing the work now, although seems daunting and exhausting, will only benefit yourself and your students. And really, isn’t that the best gift you can give yourself?

Highlights from the episode:

[00:49] Today’s morning message: Would you rather have lunch duty or playground duty for the rest of the year?

[08:49] Reflection questions around being a teacher.

[09:33] Reflection questions around your students.

[10:46] Reflection questions around curriculum.

[11:28] Reflection questions around behavior management.

[12:23] Reflection questions around classroom management.

[13:26] Reflection questions around looking ahead to next year.

[15:21] Today’s teacher-approved tip for saving your old crayons and pencils.


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Read the transcript for episode 129, End-Of-Year Reflection for Teachers: 18 Questions to Ask Yourself:

Emily  0:37

Hey, there, thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re sharing some end of year reflection questions to get you thinking and offering a teacher approved tip for holding on to your old school supplies.


Heidi  0:49

We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do it morning meeting in our classrooms. This week’s morning message is would you rather have lunch duty or playground duty for the rest of the year? Emily, what do you think?


Emily  1:02

Well, definitely, I would want neither. But if I’m being forced to choose that, I suppose I would pick playground duty. Because at least the noise and smells are a little less oppressive on the playground than in the lunchroom. Although I didn’t actually have to do lunch duty at my school, luckily.


Heidi  1:20

Yeah, I only had to do it at the end of the school year, after the contracts for our technicians who normally handled it. You know, the dishwasher only wants to pay them for so long. And then the teachers can take up the slack. Same old story.


So I am sending huge hugs to anyone who asked to enter the lunchroom regularly because it is something else. So I guess I am by default, choosing playground duty. But I have been wrestling with this question. I can’t decide if I dread playground duty, or after school bus duty more.


Emily  1:57

Oh, that one’s rough, too.


Heidi  1:59

Because you didn’t have buses at your school. Right?


Emily  2:01

No, we had to do crossing duty sometimes.


Heidi  2:05

Yeah, we had a crossing guard. But our school buses all had to run two routes. So they take one set of kids and go drop all of them off. And they’d have to come back to school and take the second set of kids. So you could easily be out there for a half an hour. Or sometimes longer if there was an a problem or traffic or an accident or something. Yeah, I’ve been outside for close to an hour waiting for buses sometimes.


Emily  2:29

Oh my gosh, and having your referee and see kids.


Heidi  2:32

They just want to go home.


Emily  2:34

We don’t want to do any of those things. How about no duty for anyone? Nope, none. We could very easily turn this episode into a rant about our feelings about teachers having to have this extra duty. Because we do it between ourselves all the time. You shouldn’t have to do any of this teachers. But since you do, we do have some responses from you.


Playground duty was definitely the most common reply. Tara said playground any day anytime. Lunch is a cacophony of hell. She is not wrong. That’s the perfect way to describe it. Lauren said now that it’ll be above 50 degrees recess, but I’m extremely glad I don’t have to do either.


Jessica said I have both every day. I’d love to have one or the other. Poor Jessica. Tammy said she’s got both too. She says my students pick up their trays, and we return to classroom to eat. And yes, I am also on recess duty five days a week, restroom breaks are a luxury.


Heidi  3:34

Just gonna ask when you got to go to the bathroom.


Emily  3:36

Jennifer is in the same boat. She said I have both everyday plus car loading duty every day of every year. Oh, dang, I can feel that rant and me coming on. So we better wrap this up. We would love to have you join the conversation over in our teacher approved Facebook group.


We love giving gifts.


Heidi  3:56

And we especially love giving gifts to our future selves. And we wanted to help you give gifts to your future self too. So make sure you check out last week’s episode where we shared three things that you can do now, that will be gifts to your back to school self.


Emily  4:12

And you’re back to school self deserves all the gifts you can get. So let’s give you another one. This week we have the gift of helping next year run a little smoother and who doesn’t want that.


Heidi  4:24

But only you can decide what that gift looks like. And that decision is going to require some reflection.


Emily  4:31

Now reflection comes naturally to some people, because I’m looking to optimize everything all the time. pinpointing areas for improvement is second nature. But reflection is more than just listing everything that needs to be fixed. That part’s the easy part for me. We also want to make room for celebrating the good.


Heidi  4:50

Not to brag but one of my professors did say I had the best self reflection of anyone in the class.


Emily  4:57

Does sound like you’re bragging actually.


Heidi  5:00

Okay, maybe a little bit. But funny enough, I have never had the opportunity to brag about that particular compliment.


Emily  5:07

Well, I’m glad we could provide this opportunity for you.


Heidi  5:11

It’s probably not going to shock anyone listening that I am a lot like you, Emily, in that I also love to pinpoint areas for improvement.


Emily  5:18

Did I or did I not finish Easter dinner by telling you what to do differently next year?


Heidi  5:26

No comment. But pausing to recognize the good just does not come as easily to me. But if we are constantly focused on overhauling problems, it is so easy to burn out.


Emily  5:37

Plus, ignoring what’s going well makes it harder to repeat those things in the future. So there are real benefits to purposefully focusing on the positives when it’s time to start reflecting.


Heidi  5:48

And if you are someone who struggles with reflection for other reasons, whether that’s because you don’t like to take the time or you don’t want to have to face the negative feelings that might crop up. That’s totally okay. Reflection is a practice. It doesn’t require any talent, it just requires effort. And like all practices, it is something that gets easier, the more you do it.


Emily  6:10

Positive change requires reflection. There’s really no shortcut for that, unfortunately.


Heidi  6:16

And what better time for reflection than at the closing of one chapter and the start of another?


Emily  6:21

So we’ve got several questions to help get your reflection gears turning.


Heidi  6:27

So I am going to wax poetic about reflection questions for a minute. I’m fully aware that sounds but just stick with me.


So a reflection question is like a flower blooming with insight. Wow. I don’t know flowers bloom with insight, but they should, or at least they are in this moment. So when you gather multiple flowers into a bouquet, you create more beauty than each individual flower can achieve on its own. In the same way, a single question can surface thoughts that are valuable by themselves. But when you gather meaningful questions together, you have a really powerful tool for change.


Emily  7:05

That was poetic. But that is the benefit of meaningful reflection. We also don’t have to force ourselves to generate responses to questions that aren’t leaving our thoughts deeper.


Heidi  7:17

And I think that’s important to remember, not every question is going to be useful in every situation. So as we go through our questions, don’t feel like you have to respond to them all. Really only answer the ones that feel worthwhile to you.


Emily  7:29

If it’s convenient while you’re listening, pause and consider your responses to the questions that apply to you. But if you want a more formal way to reflect we have a freebie for you.


Heidi  7:40

Not only does this freebie include a reflection journal page, but we have the three lists that we mentioned last week. That’s a ta-da list, a fix-it list and a to do list. It’s all set up in Google Sheets, all you have to do is click the link in our show notes.


Emily  7:54

Even if you don’t respond to any of our reflection questions, one form of reflection I think every teacher should do is to write a ta-da list. This is a list of everything that went well this year, you did so many incredible things that nobody noticed and a ta-da lists can be a great way to celebrate all of your wins. And send them to us. If you fill one out, I’ll give you all the gold stars for everything good you did.


Heidi  8:17

Great. You did a great job managing all those pencils all year long, and not a single kid stood up and clapped.


Emily  8:24

It’s just maddening how rude. They don’t even know how good they have it. But you do so write down pencil organization and every other amazing thing you did on your ta da list.


Heidi  8:35

And let’s jump into our questions. We have a set of three questions for six different areas of teacher life. And we will briefly pause after each question to give you a chance to think so. Don’t think your podcast has gone dead.


Our first set of questions has to do with being a teacher. What are you most proud of from this past school year? What caused you the most stress this past school year? When did you most enjoy being a teacher this year?


Emily  9:12

Hopefully that has your wheels turning. If you feel like these questions are bringing some big ideas to your mind do yourself the favor of writing down your responses.


Heidi  9:20

If all you can manage is just to listen and think that is still beneficial. But if you do have a few minutes to journal, your future self will really appreciate being able to refer back to your thoughts in a few months.


Emily  9:33

Our next set of questions has to do with students. What did you learn about your students this year? Which students showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well? In what ways did you impact the lives of your students this year?


Heidi  9:56

Be careful that you don’t let these questions weigh you down. It’s so easy to look back and see all the places where you don’t feel like you match the kind of teacher you aspire to be. But you did the best you could at the time. Even if you had been able to make different decisions, you would still be looking back and feeling like you dropped the ball somewhere else.


Emily  10:17

Reflection requires courage. We have to be willing to be honest about the ways we’ve fallen short, but also have to be honest about the 1000s of ways we showed up. One missed opportunity to connect doesn’t outweigh all the incredible ways you validated your students throughout the year. The fact that you care if you did a good job is proof that you’re doing amazing things. If you’re bothering to listen to teacher podcasts on your free time, I guarantee you are doing a great job.


Heidi  10:45

Okay, let’s move to a little lighter topic and reflect on our curriculum. When did you feel like students really engaged in their learning? Were you able to cover all of your curriculum? How can you adjust your pacing to move more quickly, or to allow more time for tricky topics? What’s one way you’d like to grow as a teacher in order to more positively impact student learning?


Emily  11:16

This is where I put a lot of my focus each summer. I found that I needed to plan as much of my curriculum as I could during summer, because I just didn’t have the time or the energy to deal with it during the school year.


Heidi  11:28

And there are always so many fun new ideas to try. Revamping curriculum is much more fun than our next category, which is behavior management.


Emily  11:39

Yeah, I didn’t love planning behavior management as much as I loved planning reading units, but it’s definitely an area that needs some consideration.


So for behavior management, ask yourself, what were your biggest successes with student behavior this year? What were your biggest challenges? When did your routines and procedures best serve you? When did they let you down? Were you successful at preventing or minimizing behavior problems? What can you do to better prevent behavior problems from arising in the future?


Heidi  12:20

And close on the heels of behavior management, we have classroom management. What were your organizational successes this year? And what were your organizational challenges? When did your class schedule and routine work in your favor? And when did they cause friction? Which systems for planning, grading and managing your workload were helpful and efficient? And which systems need to be adjusted to make your job easier?


Emily  12:55

Phew! That’s probably got you thinking of a lot right now. Each school year brings its own highs and lows. It’s important to be honest, without being too hard on ourselves. If this conversation has got you down, try to imagine what you would say to one of your students.


Heidi  13:11

Right, you would never criticize a student who was trying to learn. So give yourself the same grace. But hopefully as you’re looking back, it’s mostly good memories with just a few opportunities for setting goals.


Emily  13:25

Now let’s do the fun part of reflection, which is anticipating all the ways we’re going to be wiser and better going forward. As we start looking ahead to next year consider, at the end of the next school year, what would make you look back and say you’d had a successful year? What are your next steps in preparing for the next school year? What advice would you give your future self as you move toward another school year?


Heidi  13:57

Reflection doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be intentional. As we have gone through these questions, make sure that you are writing your insights where they can be useful to you going forward.


Emily  14:09

If you want all of these questions in one place, make sure to check out the freebie journal pages we have listed in the show notes. The to do and the ta da lists are in that same place.


Heidi  14:20

Summer really is the perfect time to make positive changes in the areas where you notice some challenges this year. If you want some guidance on how to turn those goals into practices, make sure to sign up for our new course.


Emily  14:31

Knowing how busy you are we designed a back to school audio course you can listen while you do other things this summer, like relax poolside. We’ll walk you through everything you need to do to set your intentions, identify your priorities, set up your systems and actually get things done so that you can have the best back to school season ever. I can’t think of a better gift to give your future self.


Heidi  14:54

The first round of our course will be for a limited number of teachers so that we can all for you the best support possible. If you want to be the first to know when we open the course so that you can make sure you have a seat, head to to sign up.


Emily  15:13

We’d love to hear about reflecting has helped you as a teacher. Come join the conversation in our teacher approved Facebook group.


Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip. Each week we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher approved tip is save your old crayons and pencils. Why would we do such a crazy thing, Heidi?


Heidi  15:38

Well a normal tip for this time of year would be to clean out all the old beat up supplies. But in this case, you might actually want to save a few things. Emily and I love to use Guided Discovery to teach students how to care for their supplies.


Emily  15:53

And we do a deep dive into Guided Discovery in Episode 75 if you want a refresher.


Heidi  15:58

As part of that Guided Discovery Process, we don’t let students use materials until we formally introduced our expectations for them. It does take some planning but you can definitely start your first day without pencils and crayons. Now, I’m not holding off on giving up pencils because I think there will be problems, right because on the first day are very unlikely to misuse school supplies. It’s day two where you’re gonna have problems.


But part of the fun of a Guided Discovery lesson is the reveal. You’re not just giving your students a pencil, you are entrusting them with a shiny new tool that they will use all year to learn and grow. But that doesn’t mean that it is always practical to wait to hand out your pencils. If your students need to write or color before you have a chance to formally introduce pencils and crayons.


One way to still keep the magic in your Guided Discovery lesson is to have students use your old study supplies to start with. Then when you are ready for your Guided Discovery you can reveal the beautiful new boxes of crayons or that bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.


Emily  17:05

And you have such a good gateway for a meaningful conversation. Did you notice the state of these old pencils? How can we treat our pencils so we keep them looking nice and new?


Heidi  17:15

Yes, so bag up some of your old pencils and crayons before you start cleaning everything out. And maybe you also want to hold on to some old glue sticks or scissors or anything else you might want students to use before you teach about them.


Emily  17:27

Make sure to go back to Episode 75. To learn more about Guided Discovery, and episode 78 if you want to know how we start the first day of school without any pencils, and crayons.


Spoiler, we use pattern blocks. And there’s a whole thought process behind that. So come and listen to that episode. And we also happen to have an awesome Guided Discovery resource to help you introduce all your school tools to your students. We’ll link to that in the show notes.


Heidi  17:53

And we also have a fun back to school pattern blocks resource if you want the very first activity of your very first day of school already planned out for you. And all of that will be in the show notes.


Emily  18:04

Got good stuff in the show notes this week.


Heidi  18:07

To wrap up the show we are sharing what we are giving extra credit to. Emily what gets your extra credit this week?


Emily  18:12

I’m giving extra credit to let me get ready for this because it’s a tongue twister. Miss Mouth’s Messy Eater Stain Treater spray.


Heidi  18:13

Oh wild.


Emily  18:13

I have seen people raving about this on social media for a while but to be honest, I kind of blew it off because it’s marketed as being kind of for like baby and toddler moms who you know, make a big mess of their clothes all the time with food.


But I finally picked it up and it’s such a great stain spray. I used it on my white tablecloth that had berry stains on it and the stain lifted so easily. I’m now going to keep a couple of bottles of this stashed around my house for those pesky stains. And this would have been a life changer when my kids were little and staining their clothes with every meal. So if you do have toddlers you especially should check out this stain spray.


Heidi  18:59

Yeah, I saw the berry stains on your new tablecloth and I was really sad for you. So I’m so glad that that came out.


Emily  19:04

Came right out with the spray, I was pretty impressed.


Heidi  19:07

Well I’m gonna have to get some of that because I feel like I eat like a toddler sometimes with the stain of my clothes.


Emily  19:12

We may or may not have inherited that from our father.


Heidi  19:16

Blame it on the genetic. Love you, Dad.


Emily  19:18

What are you giving extra credit to Heidi?


Heidi  19:20

So my extra credit goes to the Altered Moments Facebook group. Let me give you a little history. It started on Instagram, where a couple of crafters who go by Chica and Jo were sharing how they were updating some old Precious Moments figurines. So right they turned I think the first one into Monica from Friends with the turkey on her head and the whole thing.


They’ve done a bunch of different ones. They did the Grinch and Ralphie from Christmas story and they turned like a figurine of a kid at a wishing well into Indiana Jones with the gold idol. There’s just so clever and they sparked a lot of other crafters who are making their own altered moments. And they are sharing them on that alter moments Facebook page.


It’s just so funny. It’s so clever. I saw one yesterday that had me laughing It was Michael Scott from the Office doing his Race for the Cure for rabies fun. Funny. If you are a precious moments purist. I’m sorry, this might hurt your heart. But if you can get past that it is a very funny account to follow if you want to laugh.


Emily  20:29

I love it.


Heidi  20:31

That is it for today’s episode. Take some time to reflect at the end of the school year. And don’t forget to save some old supplies for the first day of school.


More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.

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