I’ve become a big fan of having students write reflections. The kids generally hate writing reflections, but the responses can be incredibly insightful. At the most basic level, I get to see what the student took away from the lesson, which is great feedback for me for how well my methods are working. I also get a feel for who is really thinking and who is going through the motions, which allows me to figure out how to better reach individual students. And every now and then, I get a response back that very thoughtfully written. My students can be very insightful and self-aware, and making the whole class write a reflection is well worth it if I can get one profound response back. My students have amazingly lucid goals for 9th graders. They can also be brutally honest about their insecurities, and sometimes it’s a little heartbreaking. But it’s also those moments that make me feel like I have a chance to step in and actually change a kid’s life. And deep down, that’s why I got into teaching: to try and be the teacher I so desperately wished I had back when I was that age.