Stop Comparing Yourself to the Highlights Reel

Have you spent a good portion of your summer break making to-do lists of all that you want to change or do better next year? skimming teacher blogs and coming across more to add to your list? reading books that will help improve your and your students' classroom experiences? wish-listing new products on Teachers Pay Teachers? searching pinterest for new ideas? At the start of each new year, my head is spinning with new ideas and changes I want to make. 

As I think about what we teachers put ourselves through during the school year, on the weekends, and on our extended breaks, "Don't compare your behind the scenes with someone else's highlight reel" keeps echoing in my mind {quotation by Steven Furtick}. Perhaps it is because I just showed you my highlight reel;) In this over-saturated world of pinterest, instagram, facebook, blogs, twitter, and now Periscope, we have to remind ourselves that WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH.

You and I have both had amazing teacher moments. We have had AMAZING classroom experiences. We have changed children for one day, one month, one year, and forever. We have made non-readers into readers. We have made sure {those kids} have a snack each day. We have taken risks and tried new things to benefit our students. We have given when we thought we could give no more, and all~in~all, we have kicked ass even on our bad days. 

I'm going to ask you to take a break with me today and stop the "re-inventing the wheel" insanity, not forever, but for just a moment. I think it's time that one of our "End Year's" habits becomes reflecting on what went well in the previous year. It's time to ensure that we focus on the positives and help ourselves plan to take what worked with us into the following year. {If you are already the kind of teacher that naturally does this, I ENVY you. This just isn't how my brain works.}

It feels like summer is slipping through my hands. In three short weeks, I will head back for teacher workdays. I HAVE NOT {specifically} thought a whole lot about the 2015-2016 school year and I will tell you, I'm talking myself down from feeling stressed out. I will be OKAY. I will be AWESOME. Matter-of-fact this will be ONE OF MY BEST YEAR's EVER!

How do we help ourselves feel more CONFIDENT, COMPETENT, AND CAPABLE?

How do we stop comparing ourselves to someone else's "blog feed?" It's time to shut out the noise {remember, it's just for a moment, not forever}...



          the noise...




I began learning this lesson around January of this year. Working in my classroom on a post-holiday workday, I had a to-do list that was a mile-long. I had not yet even made concrete decisions about what specific topics I was going to focus on in reading or social studies. {Remember, I'm the whole 4th grade team at my new school!} I was musing over my Civil Rights book clubs and trying to decide if I wanted that time period to be our focus. A voice of reason said to me "What have you done in the past that worked really well?" I immediately thought of my Civil Rights Timeline activity and how successful it was the first time I used it. Rather than scrapping my past lessons and spending my energy and time completely reinventing the wheel, I was able to recall something else I had done with historical fiction that was AMAZING; to launch my Holocaust book clubs in 5th grade, I created an image gallery and had students observe the images silently and respond to each photo in their reading notebooks. It was one of those magical teacher moments. It was powerful as the images stuck with us throughout our read alouds, classroom discussions, and book club  meetings. Why not do a Civil Rights image gallery to launch this historical fiction unit? 

In this moment of clarity, I pulled out something old and used it basically as it was {the timeline activity}, revamped a previous teaching strategy {the image gallery and response activity}, and felt completely renewed and passionate about teaching "yet another 4th grade Civil Rights unit." Not to mention, my plans for the next week or so in reading and social studies were set. When does that ever happen?!?! Rarely in my experience, especially when you have conditioned yourself to constantly start from scratch {but no more}.

After brainstorming my highlights at the end of the school year and paring the list down to a "Top 10," I reflected on "What I Did" and "Why I Loved It" in preparation for my end of year blog series. These classroom activities and routines are now documented on my blog, but more importantly, they are solidified in my memory as things that worked really well in my classroom. Many of my "Top 10" Highlights will be repeated again this year. Some of them will be revamped, and some of them will be used in spirit as I consider what I loved about the activity and how I can replicate it in other areas of my classroom experience and curriculum. 

I'm going to encourage you to grab a pencil and sheet of paper as you brainstorm a few answers to these questions. I urge you to do this for yourself. When did you feel most alive as a teacher this year {or ever}? What were you doing? What were your students learning? During which projects did you see a high level of student engagement and motivation? What new things did you try this year that had you saying "I can't wait to do this again"? Considering your work this year, what are you most proud of? These questions and the others that I have included in the "End of Year Reflection, Beginning of Year Planning Tool" will help you focus on your own highlight reel as you plan for next year. 

Because I grew as a teacher through this reflective process and valued this experience so much, I wanted to create a tool that would allow other teachers to go through a similar process. You will find reflection questions, highlights brainstorming templates, graphic organizers for elaborating on your highlights, and templates to help you plan for replicating your positive experiences next year. I have also included more details about how to use the templates.

Are you ready to take time to focus on the positives as you plan for next year? Grab your freebie and comment below with one "ah-ha" moment!

The "End of Year Reflection/Beginning of Year Planning Tool" was an idea that began to grow as I wrapped up my "2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights" posts. I found the process of brainstorming the best parts of my school year, paring the list down to a "Top 10" and considering "What I Did" and "Why I Loved It" to be the best thing I could do as one year ends and another one is soon to begin. Grab this reflection freebie and plan to trust yourself this year!