The ABC of ELT

Weekly reviews for English Language Teachers

Reflect weekly review

I got into productivity ideas when a friend after university put a copy of Getting Things Done in my hands and suggested I read it. I was a bit sceptical but I also knew that I had a propensity toward procrastination and a poor short term memory (a common trait for people who happen to be dyslexic). Meaning, if I didn’t write it down, it was gone. Since then I’ve come across many different productivity ideas which I’ve implemented into my life, but one of the best ideas which has stuck around has been the weekly review. Today I’m going to look at what a weekly review is and why you might want to implement it to help you as a teacher.

Weekly reviews

A weekly review is exactly what it sounds like. A review of your the week that has just been so you can learn from the good parts and bad parts of the week as well as prepare for the upcoming week. In Getting things done, terms it also includes making sure that you are moving forward on projects you are working on and calculating what you need to do next.

Personally, I have found weekly reviews of great use as they help me avoid being surprised by unexpected events during the week and they have allowed me to address issues that would normally slip through the gaps of busy-ness in a typical week. Some example of this include contacting a parent over their child’s absences or lack of homework as well as contacting a colleague for some advice on student who I was finding tricky to teach.

Great questions to reflect on during your weekly review

Here are a few ideas for questions you can ask yourself as you do a weekly review to help you reflect and prepare.

What was good this week? Why?

Some people seem to find this either really easy or extremely difficult. It’s important to acknowledge what went well, especially during long and difficult weeks. This really helps to motivate keep doing those small but important things.

What wasn’t so good? Why? How can I avoid this next time

Another way to phrase this is “What could have been better and how?” either is okay to use but they both are important for growth. If you find that the same things are coming up, then it’s a clear sign of what to work on.

What is unfinished from this week? [especially admin]

This is a great prompt to remind me of the little things that fall through the gap. Registers, contact with schools we work in, following up over student absences, missing resources and so on. I usually have more energy at the end of the week than the end of the day so that helps.

What irregular things are coming up next week? [and what about the follow week]

I hate getting caught out by “sudden” surprises, often I’ve actually been told about these things and added them to my calendar months ago but suddenly it arrives. This could be mid term reports, one time workshops, tax returns, trips elsewhere and so on. A quick check of my calendar really helps. Checking a couple of weeks ahead is much better than just one as some tasks can require more time than others.

What if I don’t do it, will cause a lot of problems next week?

This is useful to identify the essential tasks of the week so I can work backwards from them. It might be a meeting, an invoice to send or a lesson to plan. By checking them out ahead of time I can make sure I push other things out of the way to get them done.

What is the one thing I could do that would make the biggest difference next week

I stole this idea from essentialism by Greg McKenow. Basically, it’s an idea to try and break out of routine and habits by trying one little thing to push things forward. This could be learning about something, trying a new activity, or planning my week differently. By choosing one thing, it’s never overwhelming.

How to start a weekly review

The easiest thing to do is just to start doing a weekly review. But I love things technological so here is my extremely geeky and less easy in the short run and ever so slightly easier in the long run solution.

Create a default template of questions using a keyboard expander

I use Textexpander for all sort of things, especially journaling, reflecting and sending annoying repetitive emails (and invoices). Textexpander turns a small “snippet” you type into a longer text. So when I type “xweeklyreview” I get my questions to appear. This means I don’t need to remember the questions, just answer them.
There are a few services which do this but I use Textexpander as it is on Apple stuff and syncs between devices. I also use it to type my address in Poland without spelling mistakes and my phone number.

Use a journaling tool

I use Day One to keep a journal and remember special events. It’s a beautiful app and has markdown support as well as reminders, support for pictures and a calendar view to see old entries. Day One also syncs between devices so I can do it on my phone, tablet or computer.

Check a calendar and task management tool

I put EVERYTHING on a calendar so I don’t need to think what time my classes are. I can just check. I’d probably remember correctly but I do have a bad memory so I just don’t trust it. It also makes it really easy to see how busy I’ll be on any given day with time blocked off for classes, meetings, admin, planning, writing, travel, lunch, exercising etc. I use a task management tool (Todoist seeing as your asking) to keep a note of the tasks I need to do as well (and ideas for writing etc).

Set a fixed time for your weekly review

I’m guessing most people’s weeks finish on Friday (I know if you are in Israel this is probably different) and as such I recommend setting a reminder and calendar slot to do your review on Friday afternoon after any classes you have. This is the time when things are freshest in your mind and also it means you’ve got a few days to get ready before the start of the next week. You could do this at the start of the week but then you won’t have time to get thins ready over the weekend or even on Monday morning.

Do you do a weekly review

This is my approach, I suspect many teachers do something similar even if they don’t set a fixed time or go through reflective questions. What do you do to reflect at the end of the week?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

3 Replies

  1. Hi Chris,
    I did a presentation on time management at IATEFL this year, and one of the things I recommended was looking back on your achievements of the week before you go home for the weekend. The questions you’ve suggested here are a useful extension of that. Thanks for putting them together.

    1. Hi Sandy, I noticed your post on your talk afterwards. I think that might have been part of my inspiration! I’m glad you thought the questions are useful. I read a book called the checklist manifesto which is all about how checklists can help us to stick to best practices. That was a big inspiration for making a set of recurring questions. Thanks for the comment.

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