For a long time, we’ve advocated the use of reflective questions with our learners as a way for them to debrief their learning processes in the classroom to improve and grow. This is just as useful a practice for teachers as it is for learners because in many ways teachers are still learners themselves.
What self-reflective questions can teachers use for the same purposes? We’ve got some ideas in this post. First, though, let’s talk about why self-reflection is so crucial a practice in teaching, learning, and life.
Someone once asked veteran actor Sidney Poitier what his biggest goal in life was. He responded by saying, “to simply wake up every morning a better person than when I went to bed.” How does one actually do this, actually wake up better than they were the day before?
Keep in mind this is the Academy Award-winning superstar who was told by a casting director after his first audition that he should give up and go wash dishes for a living. What Poitier can teach us here is that a big part of benefiting from self-reflection is in having the proper attitude.
Let’s be clear about one thing: whatever you may be, the only one who can dictate your attitude about anything is you. Pinpointing our positions and outlook on our experiences is what reflective questioning is all about.
Why We Reflect (Or Should Probably Start)
We don’t debrief to punish ourselves or succumb to another’s opinion of who we are or what we can do. Reflective questions allow us to see past negativity and circumstance and ask ourselves, “how can I do even better next time?”
Ultimately, we do a grave disservice to our students as teachers if we deny them the opportunity to use reflective questions for self-assessment and improvement. By the same token, we must give ourselves permission to do the same thing.
When it comes to a profession as challenging as teaching is, asking the right self-reflective questions can help you determine many useful things including:
- what works and doesn’t work in your classroom
- where your biggest challenges are and how to overcome them
- how you can improve professional development
- what you are most fearful of in your profession and how to face it
- where you are bringing undue stress upon yourself
- how you can better foster relationships with learners/parents/administrators/colleagues
- These are only a few examples of the insights teachers can gain from using self-reflection.
10 Reflective Questions for Teachers to Use
Begin in earnest to use these reflective questions for teachers as both a meditative practice and an active pathway to being better than you were the day before.
1. What was my best moment today and how can I have more moments like it?
This question is a great one to start with because it ensures your reflection begins on a positive note. Think back to that moment and who experienced it with you—students, colleagues, or both? How was it equally enriching for them to be a part of? Once you’ve nailed it down, think about how it happened and how you can have as many similar experiences as possible.
2. What was my most challenging moment and why? How will I respond next time?
Asking this question may be a tough one to relive, but it benefits you to reflect on it briefly. Be sure not to live in that moment—accept it for what it was, which was an opportunity for you to learn something. Once you determine the lesson, you’ll get better at weathering the storm when these moments come along.
3. Were my students excited to be in class? If not, what can I do to change this?
Learning is a journey that students should enjoy every day because that’s how being a lifelong learner happens. What are you doing to make sure that your students anticipate coming to your class every day, and counting the moments until they return? This is about challenging them with activities that appeal to their creative natures, and that connect content with experiences and issues that are relevant to their interests.
4. How was my mood with others today and how can I improve it?
It’s a good practice to get in the habit of reflecting on this regularly. Of all the reflective questions for teachers to ask, this one ranks among the most vital. Why? Because your entire profession is based on interacting with others, all day and every day. As a result, the moods you experience translate to everything you do and everyone you talk to. Reflect on how all your interactions went and how they could be better.
5. How well did I communicate with others today and how can I do this better?
This question goes along with the one above. Again, teaching is a profession based on effective communication. It’s one of those skills that we’re building on all the time the more we connect with people. Do your best to be a great communicator, especially in digital or non-personal communications. Here are some tips for getting your point across succinctly and professionally.
6. In what ways did my students surprise me most today?
We enjoy posing this question to the educators we work with, only because their answers make us very happy. Teachers are consistently blown away by what their students can accomplish when they find the courage to step aside and facilitate them in finding their own learning pathways. How did your learners blow you away today?
7. How did I support my colleagues today and how will I continue to do so?
Teaching is a tough business for the best of us, and we’re all in it together. Some of you will handle challenging times better than others. Reflect on what you did, and what you can do, to contribute to the sense of community in your school through the professional support network you are an essential part of.
8. What are the biggest obstacles to improving my practice and how will I overcome them?
As you continue with your professional development, there will always be hurdles to overcome. Maybe it’s time, which can be the enemy of all teachers. Perhaps it's inconvenient scheduling of a workshop or conference you want to attend or even a lack of funding. Whatever the case may be, there’s usually a way to develop your craft with some careful planning and moving around of things when necessary.
9. What did I do today for myself and why is this important?
Something many teachers don’t do often enough is to take care of their own needs. This is understandable since your days are spent seeing to the needs of others. Nevertheless, strive as much as possible to make time for your own needs—your students, colleagues, and your practice will benefit.
10. What do I want everyone to be able to say about me?
At the end of the day, everyone who crosses your path will always remember how they felt being in your space. You’re in the perfect position to inspire people and make them feel better for coming your way. You don’t have to be the model colleague or the“cool” teacher every kid wants. In the end, you just have to be the best person you can be no matter what comes your way. Rest assured, it’s enough.
Where Transformation Begins
You have more strength than you realize and more support than you know, but in the end, change starts with you. Practice using these self-reflective questions as much as possible and watch how your teaching practices, your relationships, and your outlook all transform for the better.
Of course, asking better questions isn't just about self-exploration. By providing essential questions that push our learners to excel, we can provide them with the best learning experiences they've ever had. Begin here with one of our most popular resources, the Essential Guide to Essential Questions. You'll find all you need for understanding, developing, and assessing essential questions.
Stay curious, stay eager, and be better than you were yesterday.