Saturday, January 8, 2011

Last Days of School

Everyone is preparing for the last days of school. Students are studying for exams, catching up on the last few assignments, dreaming of vacations. Teachers are trying to teach and share the last bits of knowledge, review for end-of-year tests, dreaming of some time off to catch their breath. With all the tests, classroom or state, given and taken the last few weeks of school to find out how much has been learned, have you ever wondered how the students really felt about your class and how the year unfolded. A blog post by Vickie Davis, the CoolCatTeacher, reminded me of my days in the classroom and how I could learn more about the students and how to make my teaching better for them and myself. We both used anonymous feedback but with different methods - paper/pencil vs online.

I attended the Scholastic Banquet sponsored by the Kernersville Rotary Club the other night and was amazed at all the accomplishments of the top ten juniors and seniors from East High School and Glenn High School. The seniors were accepted by top-notch universities, all but a couple had declared their majors, and most had secured thousands of dollars in scholarships for the next four years of their lives. One item on the agenda that made this such a special event was when the seniors got together and gave an award and recognition to the teacher they had nominated as "Best Teacher of the Year." The students shared the reasons why and how this teacher influenced them. The number one reason was that the teacher had shown the students they really cared about them and wanted them to be all they could be and achieve their dreams.

When I was teaching in the classroom (let's just say I'm not quite as old as dirt) I used to ask my elementary students to write a paragraph about their year. Yes, it was on paper with a pencil but it had the same effect as when we do surveys with them online now. I did the survey so they didn't have to put their name on the paper. They seemed to feel more powerful and answered honestly because they were anonymous. Using some of their suggestions and ideas helped make me a better teacher with a progressive learning environment in the classroom.

A great way for teachers to do an end-of-the-year survey is to use the custom form page feature on their SchoolCenter website. Create text area boxes for their answers with open-ended questions asking for their honest opinions. The students could take the survey during a lab time or even from home. There will be some silly answers, but since they are anonymous you will probably get their true feelings. Not all the answers will be what you want to hear or read; some may make you really think about the way you've presented the material and hopefully there will be that one special response that makes your day, your year worth every minute of the time you've put into your teaching career.

In these last days of school, why not survey the students to find out what was important or not, how could the year be improved and ask for their HONEST opinion. We'll show them we are listening and they'll feel like they have been heard. All in all the year will end on a positive note.

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