Teachers rarely have enough time to reflect; after all, the days keep on coming, and our students need us to be present, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. However, research has proven, time and again, that accomplished teachers who are successfully reaching students on a daily basis, and not just incidentally, are reflective about their practice. Despite all we know, it is sometimes difficult to take the time to reflect and revise what we do. Share My Lesson has provided a way for me to curate my own lessons, not only allowing me to share what I’m doing in my own little corner of the world, but also providing a platform for reflection.
Through the years, I’ve uploaded a few hundred resources, and I’ve just started the process of aligning them all to learning standards on the platform (click here for an example). At first, I uploaded them as a means of parking my lessons in cyberspace for other teachers to use. This is ultimately the intent of SML, but I’ve come to see it another way. Now, when I post a lesson, I take it as an opportunity to reflect on the lesson, align it to standards more formally and specifically than I’d do just for myself, and tweak the lesson for both myself and the teachers who will use it. For example, this spring I tried out a new mini-unit on social justice issues using the movie “Zootopia.” I blogged about the experience here, as well. The combination of posting a lesson and blogging is just about the best reflective practice I’ve discovered! For example, as I reflected on this unit, I realized how much more powerful it would be to use this unit earlier in the school year, before I do my Outsiders unit, which itself takes on quite a few social issues. By frontloading the year with overt instruction through the “Zootopia” mini-unit, my students will be ready for higher-order conversations about socio-economic disparity.
The combination of blogging and uploading resources for my own reflective professional development is clear in my apparent flip-flop on authentic learning that happens in these two blogs. The first describes how I withheld pre-teaching as a means to allow authentic discovery. The second rethinks this proposition when many of my students were deeply interested in the historical context of the novel (which I never taught). What I discovered, again through sharing my practice via SML, is that there are many ways to approach a lesson, and from year to year, and certainly from teacher to teacher, the lesson can look very different yet still be effective.
If you haven’t yet, consider uploading to Share My Lesson—and not just for the altruistic reasons that might first present themselves, though the feel-good factor when someone emails me a question or comments is pretty awesome. Instead, use the experience to reflect by curating your lessons. When you know others are looking at which standards you apply, when you know that someone else will be using your resource, you plan a little better and work harder to be clear. It is a magnifying glass that you can turn upon yourself, a way to look at the microcosm of your classroom. Then, when you are ready to pan out and share with the world, you’ll be the better for it, and in turn, your students will benefit. What more can we ask from a professional development experience than for it to be free, effective and all possible from your backyard?