As a teacher and lifelong learner, I am constantly reflecting on my teaching practices and pedagogy, and trying to improve myself in the profession. I’ve spent a ton of money professional learning books, have attended several conferences and educational workshops, and have taken a number of graduate courses to enhance my teaching strategies. I’ve turned to some of the best educators in the filed for guidance and advice, but all along, I should have been asking the people sitting right in front of me–my own students!
As a fourth year teacher, I was given the daunting task of teaching all seniors and one small class of juniors this year (in the past, I’ve always taught freshmen and sophomores). At first, I was nervous, and I began to question my own abilities.
I spent my summer reaching out to other teachers in my department, stalking senior teachers’ websites, and garnering as many resources as I could. My biggest fear was failure (ironically, the one thing that I encourage my students to embrace), and I didn’t want to disappoint my new students.
Throughout the school year, I have valued the feedback from my colleagues and superiors, but I am beginning to value my students’ feedback as well. I never thought to ask my own students for advice and suggestions, but with my new endeavor this year, I deemed it appropriate.
When I noticed my students were becoming disengaged or uninterested, I reached out to them for help. I asked them how they wanted to learn and what they wanted to do. In fact, I even began the second half of the year by explaining to my seniors that I saw us as being a team–we work together to learn and grow. I explained that I was open to all suggestions, and if they did not like how a lesson or activity was going, it was their prerogative to inform me.
To foster this new collaborative and team-oriented atmosphere, I began by requesting feedback through Google Forms. For example, I recently asked my students how they wanted to complete our war/lit unit reading (e.g. Socratic Seminars, small group work, independent activities, etc). On these forms, I do not ask for the students’ names, so they are completely anonymous with the intention of garnering authentic responses. I want my students to feel comfortable speaking their minds and voicing their opinions. I want them to know that they matter and I truly care about their learning.
So, going forward, I will continue to turn to my students for advice. After all, it’s their classroom and their learning, so they need to have a say!