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Tuesday / April 23

Are We Asking the Right Questions? Reflecting with New Teachers

Common Reflection Questions

As many educators wrap up their school year, they are reflecting on the ups and downs. I can imagine new teachers and their mentors are considering their year by asking themselves, “Where has the year even gone?” Another common question floating about amongst all educators is, “Do I remain in the profession?” Hopefully, the response is YES. How do we support our colleagues as they reflect on their year and keep them from leaving? This starts with asking some common celebratory questions of our mentees, and maybe even ourselves:

  • What has gone well this year with students?
  • What is a moment or experience that supported your passion for teaching?
  • What is something that can be revised or changed with students?

The Domino of Questions Leads to Deeper Reflection

Asking questions tends to bring about more questions than answers. That’s a good thing! Rather than staying at the surface, going deeper with our questions allows for more opportunities to support growth. Questioning can also promote communication with colleagues, no matter if the questions are being asked by a mentor or a mentee. Ultimately, this leads to being more supportive in our partnerships. Take into consideration what I call directional supports – emotional, physical, communication, and instructional support – that can guide reflective conversations (Brueggeman, 2022).

  • Emotional Support: encompasses health and well-being of teachers and students
  • Communication Support: pertains to interactions with students, colleagues, and families
  • Instructional Support: entails use of teaching practices
  • Physical Support: involves tangible and procedural parts of a school and classroom

Check out a couple of strategies that can be utilized in conjunction with the directional supports to allow for deeper questioning.

Strategy #1: Support Positive Emotions with New Teachers

Speaking from experience being a new teacher, or experienced even, can feel uncertain at times. It is easy to go down the rabbit hole of negativity, resulting in frustration and maybe anxiety. This is why it is important to promote a positive outlook and keep the emotional support at the forefront. Think back to the celebratory questions and consider adding another component – a way to remember the successes and next steps.

Brainstorm ideas with these questions:

  • How can we save these memories to look back on?
  • Could we make a list or write a few stories, saving them in a ‘time capsule’ and set an open date?
  • Who can we share these successes and goals with?

Strategy #2: Ask Questions to Determine Support

How do we know what to ask for if we don’t know what is needed? Revisit the directional supports and use it more intentionally with determining specific needs. Be transparent by sharing the different types of support with descriptions and simply asking, “Which type of support is an area of opportunity?” Rather than assuming, we put the ownership in the hands of the new teacher giving more of an opportunity for growth and transfer of new practices.

Here are examples of specific questions for each support type:

  • Emotional Support: Were there social-emotional needs of students?
  • Communication Support: What were some interactions with families or colleagues?
  • Instructional Support: What instructional strategy could deepen the impact on students?
  • Physical Support: How did the classroom set-up support student learning?

Looking Ahead

This brings about another question as we reflect, “Are we asking the right questions at the start of the year, during the year, and the end of the year?” Don’t wait! Start using these strategies anytime.

References

  • Brueggeman, A. (2022). Student-centered mentoring: Keeping students at the heart of new teachers’ learning. Corwin.

Written by

Amanda Brueggeman, Ed.D. is a literacy coach and consultant with over 19 years in education. She is a Student-Centered Coaching Practitioner Consultant and holds her Doctorate in Teacher Leadership from Maryville University, where she is also an adjunct professor. Amanda is the author of the book, Student-Centered Mentoring: Keeping Students at the Heart of New Teachers’ Learning (2022). Her passions include literacy, collective efficacy, and supporting new teachers and mentors. Amanda resides outside of Wentzville, Missouri, with her husband, Jay.

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