This post was written by middle school teacher Leigh Anne Eck for our Teach Write Academy membership. It received such rave reviews that we wanted to share it with a wider audience. To see more great resources like this, join the Teach Write Academy here.
One of the first things I do at the start of summer is to begin a new notebook. It is not a writer's notebook, nor is it a reader's notebook. It is my teacher's notebook, a notebook that keeps my reflections, ideas, and learning. It's my roadmap on how to become a better teacher. You may wonder why I do this at the end of the school year. I strongly believe in the power of reflection. And what better time to begin reflection than at the end of the school year when things are still fresh and the recharging is about to begin.
Let me take you on a summer walk through the three main sections of my teacher's notebook. Reflection In this section, I create lots of lists. I reflect on the lessons and instruction of this past year and brainstorm or make lists of lessons that went well and lessons that need tweaked or taken out of my curriculum. I look at the skills my students did not master or need a little more instructional time or practice, and I create another list. I also look at the list in my previous notebook and carry over any items from those lists I still need to address. After brainstorming, I write notes on what went well or did not go well. I constantly ask myself how can I use this and become a stronger teacher-writer. These reflections aren't long, just enough to spark my memory when I look at them as I plan this summer or during the school year. Finally, I make a list of goals that I want to achieve. Instruction This section is where I develop new units or expand on existing units. Planning in my notebook allows for the messiness needed for change to occur. Sometimes I write on sticky notes and post them on the pages. As the ideas develop and change, the sticky notes allow me to rearrange them while keeping everything together in one place. I also have pages where I try out writing ideas and assignments I want my students to do in the following year. I practice my own craft because we don't learn if we don't write. Professional Development This section is probably my favorite section. As I listen to podcasts, watch webinars, or attend professional development sessions and conferences, I write all my notes in this notebook. As I listen or reread a second time, I use a different colored pen to differentiate the learning. Gleaning through the notes, I then make a new list in the reflection section of what I want to implement from my learning into my school year. A teacher's notebook may not be what some people think of as "summer writing." But this writing helps me become a better teacher of writing by reflecting, planning, learning, and practicing. And that is always one of my summer goals!