Learning From Our Students


Teachers do a lot of reflecting, but do we ever truly reflect?

The type of reflection I’m referring to is the type that drills down to the core and demands to explore and examine the inner workings of who we are, how best we teach and why things worked out the way they did in our practice, style and approach.

Do  you venture outside of yourself and look to blame others when things didn’t work out or do you look within and accept the home truths that laid buried beneath the surface?

Who are you? What is your tendency?

As teachers, we expect our students to reflect all the time. “What could you do differently next time?” or “Write a piece on what you now know and understand because of this experience.”

Do we leave enough room for teachers to do the same? I’m leaning towards a ‘no’ here.

I guess this is where I have a problem with it all. We get our students to reflect, yet teachers are the worst at it. Yes, there are those 6 times in the year we skim over the reflection piece of a planner – agreed. But, it is more about getting through it, as opposed to that true excavation of how to be better, increase intrigue and insight for the next opportunity to improve. I believe that there needs to be a section (time allowed) where students give feedback to teachers on how we could have taught them better. Imagine that! An opportunity for us to learn from our students and see things through the eyes of a 6 or 10 year-old.

We would discover things about ourselves that we would normally ‘overlook’  and, therefore would ‘look over’ to seek ways to simplify, improve and learn from.

Give students a voice to build a real culture of honesty – that will lead us towards being and doing better for them and for ourselves too.

I also believe that (now I’m taking a side Sam) teachers need to not only reflect about the pedagogy, they also need to reflect about what they bring and don’t bring to each unit – not just as a teacher, but as a person. We are great at using terms like growth mindset and innovation for education, redefining, being a capacity builder…. what does all that mean if we leave out the biggest piece – how is your practice changing you?


  1. sherrattsam

    The best teachers reflect all the time… perhaps too critical of themselves. But this is informal, random and not a clear part of the processes of planning in place in schools – so does that mean we are missing out on it’s power? Probably.

    Reflecting on units isn’t a habit – most teaching teams have to be told to do it, and have to be guided to do it well. My point is, if they understood the value of reflecting, they wouldn’t have to be told to do it. If they understood the value of on-going reflection, they wouldn’t just do it at the end of the unit – when it’s too late!

    You and I have definitely asked students to give us feedback on us, either at IST or NIST… didn’t we?

    • Chad Walsh

      Yes, we did. And that’s why the relationships were so strong. We know this when years later we’re mobbed by swarms of students, receive that email from that students sharing an impact and positive experience they had, or even Sunny our TA emailing on our birthday, even now – ten year on.You can’t teach that type of openness or level of reflection – it is so natural and innate.
      The reflection I was hoping to also touch on is that as teachers we are quick to blame, judge and finger point others. When we really should be looking within first before we look outwards.
      You’re right Sam – ‘reflecting’ at the end of the unit is far too late, the moment is lost and no tangible improvement or adjustments are made, and the cycle continues.

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