5 Ways to Reflect, & Not Regret, Teaching!

5 Ways to Reflect, & Not Regret, Teaching
Summer Thoughts for Fall Success!

I love teaching! I love being a School Teacher Librarian & Technology Specialist. I love my practice, my profession, my school, my library, my students, my families, and my community! I can't imagine doing anything else that feeds my soul like being an educator. I love the seasons and the time and tide of it.* Full confession, this is an update of a blog post I wrote a few years ago - because I think we should reflect on these subjects every summer or every year.

Every new school year is a do-over. Any and all the mistakes or things you didn't get to do the year before can be corrected the next year. It's like an on-going karmic gift that keeps on giving year after year! I can't think of any other profession that gives you such a clear start and stop and a time to reflect.

The great thing about summers off (other than that they are made of awesome) is the ability to step back and reflect about the past school year. 

So here are my 5 R's to help with your reflective journey.

1. Relax 

Before you can truly reflect you gotta relax. And it doesn't have to
be a week at the beach, in a hammock, or in a Coastal Cottage (but that helps!) but it should be a seeking of solace. 

Quieting your mind, read (of course!), breathe, sleep, (I do a lot of that) heal (it seems like I often get a cold at breaks & holidays - like my body says "Oh, you have time now....here you go!) putter, get a massage, swim, run, walk, nap, garden - whatever it is that is relaxing to you, is a good thing to do! 

You can't give if you're tapped out.

Disconnecting from social media is also helpful - going off the grid - consider taking a Digital Detox, as mentioned in a recent article I wrote for NEA Today Magazine.

I have a hard time with that sometimes, but it's lovely. I'm doing better this summer. Sorry (not sorry) for my lack of blog posts, Tweets, and Social Media posts. Did I mention it was lovely?

2. Reflect
Once you're relaxed, reflect on the things that went well last school year. Lessons that inspired, projects that showed promise, and programs that popped!

Also, think about the things that didn't go so well and how you could make improvements.  Make a list if that works for you!

Last year I decided to ditch the duct tape craft cubby in my Makerspace because of how much tape was wasted and several little spats that it caused. Fail!  I replaced it with a Coloring Corner and WIN! 

Stay the Course, or Change it!

Sometimes, you can't change a situation but you have to learn to graciously accept it - and then work around it. 

Once again, this year our library was standardized testing central. I supported testing 157 days out of 180 days of school. That's...a lot.  I also lost my full time Media Assistant, the amazing Kathi Bell. ((Summer 2018 Happy Update, thanks to our awesome new HCPSS School Superintendent Michael J. Martirano @SuperHCPSS
we got her back! YAY!))

But, committed to being a positive school team member, I (constantly) reminded myself that we weren't the only school in my district or state MAP, PARCC, and standardized testing and we weren't the only school to lose a Library Media Assistant (ALL Middle & High Schools lost their assistant last year - there was no fighting it, it was a done deal :-(. Sometimes things happen in school or life that sucks. I believe it's the measure of one's character by how you react, cope, and recover from bad situations. 

Do you react with seething anger and hostility or professionalism and positivity? I also really like my paycheck and I'd like to someday retire with a pension. More importantly, being a bitter angry person about situations you can't change really doesn't feel so good. It's toxic to you and to those around you. So, we've decided to adopt a Tim Gunn, "Make it Work" Project Runway kinda attitude. It's optimistic, not delusional, I swear!

Finding acceptance that this was not-optional helped, and also finding Ninja ways around it helped, too! Visiting the classrooms with carts of books - making my teaching "to go" or "on delivery" quelled my need for that teaching fix, our daily show on our MHTV station, and 8th grade recess bonding fun in the library, kept me connected to my kids. Kathi kindly came in an hour early most days to help in the Media Center and our Principal Mr. W allowed Ms. Bell work in the Library Media Center a period a day.
Got great ideas & a positive attitude for this next school year? 
GREAT!  But...

Though your school may be different (and I really hope so!) it has been my experience in 24+ years of teaching that most Teacher's Lounges and
Staff Rooms are hotbeds of malcontent, vitriolic venting, kid & parent complaining, and people who can't wait to squash your bright eyed optimistic attitude. Why not create your own positive lunch bunch & eat in the library or classroom? Me? I usually eat my lunch alone reading TV recaps, BRAVO blogs, and celebrity gossip.  Don't judge me. ;-) Why not seek out the virtual teachers lounge that is Twitter? And bonus!... it's a global positive place! But the Teacher's Lounge? Stay clear, Padawan...stay clear!

Whatever challenges you face in your school - coolly reflect on it, find the positive, an alternative, and keep moving on.

3. Revise
Think about ways to effect real change and revise what you did
from last year to the coming new school year. Remember, one of the BEST things about teaching, as I mentioned above, is that every school year is a do-over! Every new school year was a fresh start. Don't dwell on the past look to the future! 

Choose ONE THING to focus on next year. 

Why not:
Don't make it impossible, make it do-able! Set a reasonable goal for your profession and practice next year and keep it. If you achieve it, awesome! Why not make another goal? And remember, for everything new you choose - you don't have to marry it! Post-it wall optional! 

4. Rededicate
Tough love time. Really think about WHY you are in this profession. Do you have a true calling? Do you speak enthusiastically about what you do? Do you like, admire, believe in, and cheer for your students?  
Or, are you a Debbie downer or a whiny William? Are you a constant complainer? Do people avoid you in the hallways because they know you will always have something to moan about? Do people hesitate before asking "How are you?" because they know you will tell them, in detail, ALL the bad stuff? Yeah, that sucks. Time to fix it! Turn it around. Rededicate yourself!

I know that when writing, I use a LOT of exclamation points! That's because I'm (annoyingly) unapologetically enthusiastic,
positive, and passionate about my profession. (Alliteration addicted, too!)  Even though some days, you gotta fake it till you make it, students can tell when you've mentally given up or checked out. They can also REALLY tell when you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) dislike them. Stop it!

So, if you're not more positive than negative about teaching ....please, LEAVE.  Bye Felicia!

Go consult, go corporate, go work at Macy's, join the Peace Corps, whatever, GET OUT or GET BETTER! Because, our kiddos deserve ONLY our BEST! They deserve our passion and genuine enthusiasm about what we do.

One of the things that helps me keep my positive attitude going is a Happy Folder. Create a manila or digital photo folder of thank you notes, pictures of gifts, screenshots of Tweets, or emails from students, former students, and colleagues that can keep you going when you need a pick me up! It's a soul refresh! 

Works every time! 

Living an authentic life with joy, choosing happiness, and a being in a profession with continual reflection, rededication, and without regrets is the way to go! If you're not feeling it, then you're doing yourself and our students a disservice.

Our profession and our kiddos are so precious, and our responsibility to our students is so great, that if you don’t have the proper enthusiasm and optimism for it then maybe some serious soul searching needs to happen – STAT!

 5. Rejoice!

Celebrate your year! It's over.....and I'm sure you had some high points and some low ones. You taught, and most importantly, you LEARNED! Celebrate your successes and accept your failures. We all have them, and frankly, my failures teach me SO MUCH more than my successes. We have the BEST job ever! Rejoice & Enjoy!

*PS.  I know the beginning paragraph of this post was a bit much but I really don't care if I sound like some kind of effin Pollyanna. So there, haters. [grins wryly]

What do you think? 
Join the conversation in the comments to either mock my persistently positive Pollyanna personality and over use of alliteration! OR agree with the ideas... OR add your own ways to reflect and not regret! We're all in this together - let's help each other out!  

Resources: Here's a few related blog posts!

Rewrite the Story You Tell Yourself About Teaching &

How to Stop Yelling at Your Students


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post! It begins with loving relaxation and ends with strong admonishion to take our roles seriously because we have the power to make an impact. Thank you for guiding us in making the best use of our summer and be ready for the 2016-2017 school year.

    1. Thank you so much Daniela for your kind comment! I was afraid I was so perky positive and also too heavy judgy when it comes to toxic teachers! Whew! Sounds like a struck the right balance for you and that's probably because you're an AWESOME teacher!
      Cheers dear, have a great year!

  2. Great incite - have shared your wonderful post.

  3. Great tips with wonderful stories. Thanks for sharing.

  4. cool ideas! I usually spend my holidays with my family and sleep till my satisfaction 'lol'.

    1. I sleep a lot, too! Is it wrong to have a morning and afternoon nap now and then? If it's wrong, I don't wanna be right!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing all of your ideas about teaching, the library, and life. This post is just what I needed to read as my summer is drawing to a close. I too love my job and can't think of anything I would rather be doing for now. I thought you might enjoy taking a look at Zentangle. It would be great addition to your Coloring Corner. Here is the link: https://www.zentangle.com/
    Debbie Benedict
    Library Media Specialist

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Debbie! Are you on Twitter? Also, thanks for sharing the coloring site - Zentangle! Cheers, dear!

  6. The 5 R's! This article is a mirror image of what my summers look like. I love being an elementary school teacher and one of the most critical times in the year for me is summer. In order to be better, to do better I must have the time to "be" within the 5 R's. Though we are reflective practitioners throughout the school year summer is the time to really mediate on our best practices. Thank you!


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