Sunday, November 14, 2010

Voice of the Students

As a teacher we are most prone to having our decision making driven by our personal feelings, prior experiences, administrative feedback, and basic time constraints. We like to teach lessons we are comfortable with and have had success with in the past. Pulling from our own experiences in life we craft learning activities that we think our students will connect with. If we are being evaluated we use administrative feedback or suggestions to determine what and how we present material to our classes. Plus, if you are like me, there are times when plans and decisions are made in the shower or the commute to work in the morning. How often though are we asking students what is working and not working for them? Do we ever give them a chance to tell their story and give us their input?

Those were some questions I had asked myself over the past few months and decided to go about doing something about that. A friend and colleague of mine decided to create a student survey for the junior high that we teach at. We wanted to ask questions that got at the heart of the learner and what we were doing as teachers and as a school that impacted their learning. Our goal was to use the results of this survey to paint a picture of what a student experiences at our school. Overall the results were very positive and confirmed what we were doing was good and having an impact on kids learning in a positive way. However, there are still students that expressed concerns and raised questions that need to be addressed.

What I find interesting is just how much you can learn about your students and in turn yourself as a teacher just by asking. Many of the decisions we make on a daily basis, we do with the best intentions and with hopes of positively impacting our students. However, if we never stop and check in with the students, we don't know what is working and what is not. A full school wide survey worked well for us, but it can be something as informal as those conversations in the hall and lunchroom. The key thing is that you must listen to all the voices, not just the kids who want to speak up. It is often the quiet and unheard voices that have the most to say, and if an anonymous survey is the answer, then give it a try. If nothing else, it will help affirm what you are already doing!
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