Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Soliciting Student Feedback: Do it!!

Many teachers are terrified about asking their students what is working -- and NOT working!! -- in their classrooms. They are afraid to be insulted or put down by their students, which I find extremely unnecessary. One of the BEST ways, in my opinion, to know what is working and needs to change in our teaching is by asking some of the people who are often NEVER asked for their valuable feedback: our students!

My co-teacher and I make it a common practice to survey our students on our instruction and their experience in our classroom about once a quarter already. Now, our school leadership team has decided to solicit student feedback as a whole school in every department in the next week, a process I believe is LONG overdue. Even middle school students have candid, honest, and meaningful insight that can only help us become better educators for them. 

Last Thursday, I gave this new survey to my students and just had the opportunity to compile the results. Were their words or opinions surprising? No. Helpful and oftentimes reaffirming? Absolutely. After analyzing the data from the student survey, this is the information that I was able to collect about instruction in our classes:

Instructional PLUSES (What I do already that works for my students):
- Annotating and highlighting notes
- Teaching new things
- Asking students questions
- Creative storytelling (ie: Halloween stories)
- Read alouds
- Group activities
- Listening to music while working
- Giving students opportunities to choose partners to work with
- Going over and reviewing materials with repetition
- Using the Promethean board
- Helping students
- Writing and reading activities
- Using many examples
- Giving many tests to evaluate learning and understanding
- Using graphic organizers
- Having two teachers to help students and answer questions
- Rereading paragraphs and helping students put them into their own words
- Providing feedback on writing
- Use of vocabulary flashcards
- Theater field trip
- Vocabulary review games
- Variety of handouts distributed
- Waiting for everyone to keep quiet
- Always explaining things in detail (ie: writing prompts)
- Use of calling sticks to hear from other students
- Posting the agenda because it helps us know what to do in class
- Use of interesting short stories
- Shared inquiry discussions
- Vocabulary (including sentence writing)
- Loud speech and thorough explanation
- Teacher enthusiasm
- Pictures
- Teacher patience
- Opportunities for student discourse
- Sharing examples of student writing
- Utopian drawing project

Instructional ‘ADD tos’ (Ideas of what to add to my instruction that will further help students):
- More graphic organizers
- More Jeopardy and vocabulary games
- More hands-on, fun, and interactive activities
- Stopping less when other students talk
- Better books
- More prizes and candy to use as rewards
- More exciting lessons
- More background music variety
- More opportunities for student discourse
- More field trips
- Make things easier to understand.
- Use less notes
- More reading in student groups
- More study guides for tests
- Study vocabulary words more in class.
- Make instruction more visual.
- More book discussions and projects
- Watch more videos, especially of books read in class
- Use the activotes more.
- More student inquiries
- Reading and acting stories aloud more often
- More free time and less independent work
- More time to complete assignments, especially essays
- Fewer writing assignments

Other fun student quotes:
"I look forward to this class every day."
"I love the way you are always excited when you teach."
"I love your enthusiasm."
"I enjoyed the scary stories because they were fun and entertaining."
"I like this class."

THREE SUGGESTIONS from the STUDENTS that I will incorporate during the next quarter:

1. Using more hands-on, group activities with our core books, including read alouds, discussion questions, and opportunities for creative expression.
2. Reviewing in class before every vocabulary quiz with a fun game, such as Around the World.
3. Providing students with the opportunity to discuss their favorite or current books they are reading to encourage their peers to read more independently.

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