How To Use Mantras For Meaningful Teacher Reflection

Julie, Head of Content and Curriculum, shares how using mantras in your teacher reflection can make it productive, empowering, and actionable. She walks you through each step in the process so you finish the school year feeling confident and clear on your goals for summer planning.

Updated on: May 7, 2019

A teacher using the mantra reflection framework

Reflection might be the last thing on your mind right now. As you inch closer towards the end of the school year, you will likely feel pushed towards all that is left to do (packing up your classroom, final grades and comments, end of the year celebrations and assemblies), while pulled towards summer plans.

Rest and relaxation should be prioritized when school ends. But what about reflection?

Reflection has a bad reputation with teachers. I think it is because we write so many reflection papers in college that we become desensitized to its importance and impact.

Reflection is important because it reminds you of why you became a teacher in the first place. We write a teaching philosophy when we start teaching, but do we ever revisit it? I believe we should.

Reflection is also important because it centers us in our teaching practice. There is so much to think about when teaching: assessment, building relationships, classroom community and culture, curriculum and instruction, and on and on. If you spend your summer trying to work on everything instead of one thing, I can promise you that you won’t feel rested when it’s time to go back to school.

We reflect to reconnect with our teaching values and beliefs, and we reflect to center ourselves for the year to come. Should you spend endless hours this summer reflecting, planning and setting goals? No. Reflect smarter, not harder.

The secret to a productive and powerful reflection is using mantras.

Mantras are everywhere. You can find them on everything from coffee mugs to tee-shirts. You can even receive them in emails and texts.

I am here. I am now. I am enough. I am grateful for this present moment and everything it offers me. I choose to release what does not serve me now. My presence holds power.

The research shows us that mantras center us, and help us focus on the present. According to a Harvard University Study, we spend almost half of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing. Not very productive.

According to Psychology Today, a study in Brain and Behavior shows that, “silently repeating a single word to yourself quiets the system responsible for your mind wandering, thinking about your past, or planning your future." Mantras help make reflection meaningful because they keep us focused on the task at hand, so our mind doesn’t wander and we can focus on reflection, and reflect smarter, not harder.

So how do we combine mantras and reflection?

We use a reflection framework that includes a mantra.

A Mantra Reflection Framework

I wish I could take credit for the mantra, I am, I can, I will, I do, but I can’t. Christine D’Ecole, a professional cyclist and fitness instructor uses this mantra in her training and teaching. It became an important mantra for me, not only for fitness, but for work. I have taken her mantra expanded it into a reflection framework that I have found incredibly helpful and productive. Try it out for your end of the school year reflection.

Here’s how it works

I Am (Value)

This is where your teaching philosophy from college becomes relevant again. Think about why you teach. What kind of teacher are you? What do you hope to model for your students? This is who you are in your classroom.

I am a facilitator in my classroom who works alongside my students. I ask them meaningful questions, and guide their learning.

I Can (Confidence)

Begin your reflection process by writing about what you can do really well in the classroom. Think about your teaching this past year. What went well? What did you feel especially proud of?

I can design engaging lessons and differentiate my instruction so all my students are able to learn new topics and practice new skills.

I Will (Goal)

Now you think about areas that you want to grow in your teaching. What do you want to learn more about? What do you want to focus your time and energy on this summer as you plan for next year?

I will learn more about personalized learning, so I can work to provide my students with opportunities for choice in the curriculum.

I Do (Habit)

Finally, think about the routines and procedures that are important both to you and your students. What habits do you hope to build for yourself? What habits do you want to help your students develop? Even if this isn’t something you do already, write it as it is.

I use formative assessments to support my students to check their understanding and plan next steps so they take ownership over their learning.

When you have finished the process, you will see that each component of this mantra has now become something affirmative, empowering, and actionable. Keep the sentences that you wrote near you as you do summer planning. Place them on your desk when you go back to school. When you start to feel lost or overwhelmed in the classroom, silently repeat to yourself, I am. I can. I will. I do. This silent repetition will center you and bring you back to the present moment so you can focus on what’s most important, your students.

What's your teaching mantra? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Julie Mason is the Head of Content and Curriculum for TeacherVision. She brings expertise in blended and personalized learning, instructional coaching, and curriculum design to the role. She was a middle and high school English teacher for eight years and most recently taught at Dana Hall, an all-girls school in Wellesley, MA. She was a blended and personalized learning instructional coach for K-12 teachers at BetterLesson for two years, and she has presented at The National Principals Conference, ISTE, and ASCD where she shared her expertised on how instructional coaching builds teacher capacity in K-12 schools. She has extensive experience designing and facilitating professional development for teachers, and she oversees the TeacherVision advisory board.