You can’t buy it, it isn’t easily made, and it is never free. Time is a commodity that teachers seem to need more and more throughout the year. Making time for reflection sometimes comes at the bottom of our lists, or at least my list. I find that I need to be very intentional with my reflections and include them in my plans throughout the year. When we make time for reflection, we are given glimpses into our practice that are much more valuable than test scores or evaluations.

There are many different ways to reflect. We ask students to reflect on their work during assignments and afterwards as a part of the learning process. Asking students to reflect comes rather easy to many teachers. Exit tickets, reflective essays, questionnaires, and self-assessment rubrics are the most commonly used for student reflection. I allow my students to correct their formative assessments. In order to receive credit for corrected mistakes, they must reflect on them, providing evidence that they understand what went wrong and how they can prevent future mistakes. They don’t erase their mistakes so they can see their process and evaluate each step. What about teacher reflection? How often do teachers reflect? Where is our exit ticket?

For the past two years, I have been teaching math through entrepreneurship. My students run a business in the classroom and donate their profits to a charity of their choice. The first year was a challenge for me as a teacher. I was terrified. I was trying something new and I knew I needed to reflect often. Part of my process was to have the students to reflect at different points during the school year and use those reflections to guide the business. I wasn’t really sure my students were learning anything from the process until I asked them to reflect. What I got was so much better than I imagined. Through this process of entrepreneurship, my students learned so many valuable lessons. They learned to fail and try again. They learned to collaborate, iterate, and communicate. They learned the importance of research. They became leaders. They learned some math in the process too, but what was even better was they learned that math is everywhere and they could connect what we were doing in class to the world around them.

I am moving to a new role in the fall and while cleaning out my desk I found some of their reflections from two years ago. As I read through them I was inspired again. Their words reminded me of why I started teaching in the first place. I walked out of my math classroom for the last time with a refreshed purpose for my new role, knowing I can achieve great things. I kept those reflections to remind me that what we do as teachers matters. Even when we are stressed and time is not on our side, we are still making an impact on the lives of kids.

Amy Brownlee is the Assistant Director of Lausanne Learning and Lower School Technology Teachers at Lausanne Collegiate School.