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The Value of Looking Back

By Craig McKinney, AVID Elective Teacher and Staff Developer

Recently, my Facebook feed has been littered with posts from people about things that occurred one, two, or more years prior. “On this day one year ago” photos pop up, accompanied by comments like, “Hard to believe this was just one year ago,” “I forgot about this, “ “Wow, we’ve all changed so much,” “I was such an idiot then,” or, “Can you believe we were so concerned about that?”

People are drawn to moments from their past that contrast to their present selves. “Throwback Thursday” photos often have the added purpose of highlighting the fashion and style atrocities of yesteryear, with the implicit idea that we all look so much better now that we have the sense not to wear those parachute pants or style our hair in that once-fashionable mullet.

The end of an academic year is an ideal time to have a Throwback Thursday of our own—to ask our students to project themselves back nine months into the past in order to see how they’ve grown and changed as a result of being in our classes. What do you know now that you didn’t know in September? What can you do now that you couldn’t do at the beginning of the school year? If you had it to do over again, what might you do differently?

This type of reflection belongs in the review weeks at the end of the school year. Ask students to create a graffiti wall displaying what they’ve learned. Have them compare a sample of recent work to a similar assignment from the beginning of the school year. Brainstorm a list of everything that they wouldn’t know if they hadn’t taken your class. Let them reflect in writing about how far they’ve come, the obstacles that they encountered along the way, and how they dealt with them. Encourage them to make some notes for themselves for next year so they don’t drive into any of the same potholes later.

Goal setting is a key aspect of instruction in our AVID classes, as it should be in all of our classes. Equally important is the time to look back at where we’ve been, celebrate our progress, and redirect our focus to the future.

Like the Roman god Janus with two faces—one looking forward and one looking back—we use our past experiences to steer ourselves successfully toward what is to come.

Thanks for all that you do to help your AVID kids (and all of your kids) make impressive strides on the road to success.



Craig McKinney teaches Humanities at Shepton High School in Plano, Texas. A Dallas-area native, Craig attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he received degrees in English and Sociology. He earned his master’s degree at the University of North Texas. During his 22-year teaching career at Shepton, Craig has taught English, Humanities, Latin, and the AVID Elective. As part of his contribution to Shepton’s AVID site team, Craig spreads AVID strategies schoolwide through staff in-services and by writing a weekly Wednesday WICOR email. When he’s not teaching ninth and tenth graders, Craig works as an AVID staff developer. He also bakes a mean loaf of sourdough bread, serves as an officer of his university’s local alumni association, and loves herb gardening, attending cultural events, and playing board games.

Want to read more blogs from Craig? Check these out!
How We Do This All Day Long
10 Painless Ways to Manage the Kinetic Energy in Your Classroom
10 Ways to Infuse Your Final Exam Reviews With WICOR
Do Your Students Know How To Ask Questions?
Loaded Questions
Your Teacher WICOR Summer Homework
A Brain-Based Paradigm Shift
In the Classroom: Setting House Rules
Giving Thanks: A Reminder

For more on AVID, visit http://avid.org/what-is-avid.ashx.

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Reader Comments (4)

What a great idea, Craig, and today just happens to be Thursday. I think I might open with a "Throwback" and use the three questions you mention in your blog. Thanks.

May 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Froess

Fantastic! Students can really build on the power of reflection in this activity. I love it. Thanks for all that you do for young people.

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Mosher

thanks for the Amazing information in the post

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGovt Jobs 2015-16

thanks for the nice information in the post

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