I love trying new things or changing up the way I do things at school. Whether I look back at my years in the classroom or in my new role in the library, I am always on the move and trying different and new things. My goal is to always make the experience for the students better than it was before. That is not to say what I was doing or what was being done was bad or somehow not good enough. It is just that I believe in constant Improvement for the sake of the students and their overall experience.
I often get asked where I get my ideas or what drives this change. For starters, it's just a personal thing for me. I have always been a restless individual, constantly on the move and constantly changing things. I don't change things just for the sake of change but for the sake of improvement and continual growth. Beyond my own personal interest in change, the biggest driving force behind it is the students themselves. My ideas are most often driven by the students I work with. If you want to know how to improve your teaching or the environment in which you teach, ask your students. This may seem like such a simple concept and yet it is incredibly impactful. I have said it before but I truly believe students are often the most untapped resource in our schools. They truly can be the change agents and voices of positive change we need.
When I was in the classroom I would sit students down and ask them for their feedback on a project or an activity. If it wasn't working for them I would want to know why. Conversely, if it was working I would want to know that as well. In my new role in the library, I have had what I've begun to call “focus groups” and sought feedback from students. I sit down with a group of students and ask them what they enjoy about the library space and what they don't enjoy. I have sought input on how I can make reading more engaging to them and highlight books they want to read. Taking that feedback I have begun to transform the library from where it was at the beginning of the year. Not only has our physical space changed but resources such as robotics, coding, tech support and many more are now a part of our learning space. I know our space, programs, and overall environment will continually evolve as I progress and gain even more feedback from students.
The key here though is not just simply getting feedback. What matters what actions come about as a result of that information. If students are providing me with feedback that I choose to ignore then I am making a decision do not want to grow. If the feedback they give can enhance the learning environment for themselves and others then I would be negligent in my job to not listen and take action.
Yes, it is possible and likely students will give feedback which is inappropriate or wrong. That too is important because it is an opportunity for me to explain to students why certain things are the way they are or potentially why certain things can not change. Good and bad feedback from students is invaluable. If you are truly interested in making your classroom, your school or your space better for kids and for learning then look no further than the students in front of you.
I am always curious to learn about other ways in which educators are gaining feedback from students. How have you used students as a resource in your buildings? What positive changes have been driven by your students?