Featured Community Nov 29

Reflecting with students on Mirror Mondays: a high school story

When students reach their final years of high school, they are likely feeling a mix of emotions about their futures: uncertainty, excitement, possibly a bit of fear. And for educators who work with 11th and 12th graders, offering guidance and support for their students while also helping them get a head start on their college application can feel extra challenging.  

Ashley Snider, an English teacher at Davie County High School in Mocksville, N.C. is focused on breaking through to her older high schoolers by starting off the week with an opportunity to reflect and connect. She calls it “Mirror Mondays.” When students enter her classroom, she shares a reflection question in the teacher-student connection builder, Along. During the first 10 minutes of class, students have the opportunity to review Snider’s own response to the question and then answer themselves.

“I want them to have a connection with me, and I want them to have a moment of reflection about themselves, to really be able to see themselves,” Snider said. “They’ve experienced a great number of changes and challenges, and we don’t really teach them to be analytical about themselves and to work on those soft skills that they will need to have after high school.”

Snider chooses reflection questions that open up a dialogue with her students, but she also has an ulterior motive. She tries to align Along questions with the questions students will encounter on the Common App, the undergraduate college admission application that is used by over 1,000 institutions in the U.S.

“One of the questions I asked this year is, ‘what was a time when a new idea changed your mind?” and that’s because it’s similar to one in the Common App,” she explained. “This helps them get through that reflective process so they’re getting a head start on what they may write on their college application.”

Reaching lots of students during jam-packed days

Snider says she appreciates the ease of using Along to connect with her students, particularly with the time restrictions that come with having large class sizes.

“Our classes are packed – I had 34 students in one class last semester, which makes it really  hard to meet individually with students,” she noted. “The time just flies by, even being on a block schedule of 90 minutes. Along gives me a way to connect using questions that are already formulated.”

She said that with 16-18-year-olds, there’s also a tendency to forget that they’re “still kids.” With all of the pressures these students are facing about their futures, it’s critical to provide moments of personal reflection and to show that you care.

“I’ve always found that if you ask kids, they will tell you, and it never ceases to amaze me how much they are willing to reveal,” Snider explained. “And one of the things I have loved asking in Along is ‘what do you feel like you’re too old to do, but you still enjoy?’ The answers open up a whole portal to their identity. It’s wonderful. You are helping them reflect on their growth, but you  are also encouraging play.”

A source of connection with curriculum 

Snider also uses Along to help students create connections with the material she is teaching in class. For example, when studying the “The Canterbury Tales,” which is about a pilgrimage, she asked students to answer the Along question: “If you could go any place in the world that you’ve never been to, where would you go? Why?”

No matter which question she asks, she always answers it first so her students can get to know her a bit more.

“I’ve always been a firm believer in social-emotional learning and connecting with students. It is foundational to learning,” she said. “This is my way to establish in a safe way that I’m here as a teacher, and as someone you can trust and share with who is not your parent. My 18-year-old son sometimes won’t talk to me, but if he is establishing that relationship with a teacher, this makes me feel better as a parent.”

Even after establishing a Monday morning routine with Along, Snider says that her students are “always shocked when I actually read what they write.” She explained, “They go through the course of their day and no one is actually reading what they write or responding to them. I am an English teacher, and I love to read and find out about you!”

Do you want to share how you’re using Along this school year? Reach out to media@gradientlearning.org, and you could be featured on our blog.



Keep reading Next

Related Articles