Change & Challenge

By Ward, Daniel | The American Biology Teacher, August 2011 | Go to article overview

Change & Challenge


Ward, Daniel, The American Biology Teacher


It is hard to believe but August is here, and for most of us a new school year is about to begin. Starting a new school year can be a challenge, even for those of us who have years of experience. The seemingly endless number of tasks that need to be completed before our students arrive can appear overwhelming. A new school year is also a time of change. Former students move on and new students, with their different personalities and abilities, create different classroom dynamics from the previous year. The new school year brings a wide range of educational emotions from excitement and anticipation to fear and dread.

Although full of changes and challenges, the new year is also an ideal time to reflect upon the previous year. Reflection and self-evaluation allows all educators to meet these changes and challenges with confidence and a positive attitude.

As I shared in March, "reflective teaching allows educators to analyze their teaching skills, the subject matter, and motivation of the students, with the goal of improving the overall learning process" (Montgomery & Thomas, 1998). Lewis (no date) suggests that you ask yourself several tough questions when reflecting on your teaching. Five essential questions stand out when performing self-reflection. They are (Lewis, no date):

* Where did I fail as a teacher in the past? Where did I succeed?

* What can I do to be more proactive in my professional development?

* Are there any aspects of my profession that I am ignoring out of fear of change or lack of knowledge?

* How have my beliefs about learning and pedagogy changed over the years?

* Do I still enjoy teaching? If not, what can I do to increase my enjoyment in my chosen profession?

In a profession as challenging as teaching, truthful self-reflection is an annual procedure essential to avoiding entrapment in educational stagnation. If you don't regularly examine your teaching you may end up becoming one of those tenured, stagnant teachers that are stuck in a rut, presenting the same ineffective and outdated lessons year after year, and no longer enjoying your educational career. Educational stagnation may contribute to nearly 50% of the new teachers who quit within the first 5 years of teaching (Lambert, 2006).

Let's be honest: very few of us reach our potential to be the best possible educator without positive influences and evaluations. Providing honest answers to these questions will influence specific strategies for improving all teachers, whether tenured teachers or rookies.

Annual membership in the National Association of Biology Teachers provides valuable resources that can help in developing these positive classroom educational strategies. …

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