Teachers need to take time every so often to assess themselves and their lessons for effectiveness. Of course, one of the most often used methods is students’ grades. If a high number of students receive passing grades you’re doing ok and need to follow up with the stragglers. If you have a large number of failing grades it simply can’t be blamed totally on the students. There has to be something you could be doing better as well.
Something else I like to do every nine weeks is to have students write me a letter. In the letter they should tell me what they like about class, what they don’t like, and suggestions regarding how I can make class a friendlier, enjoyable learning environment. Many student suggestions over the years have become tried and true strategies that have been passed on to other teachers. For example, when we were having a difficult time with the doling out of classroom jobs it was a student who suggested my “Most Valuable Student” or MVP program I still use. Everyday one student is the MVP and they do all of the jobs I need done. I post a class roll and we simply go down the list. The kids keep up with it and it’s very orderly.
Recently when I was cleaning out a container I found a set of letters from last year written about this time. Here are 13 things students told me they like, don’t like, or suggestions that were given to me. I’ve cleaned up the grammar a bit and the text within parentheses are my own editorial remarks.
1. I really like coming to your class everyday. I can’t wait to get here. Can you change the posters though? Enough already with Native Americans and Explorers---I’m ready for something different. (I usually change posters during Thanksgiving break).
2. You need to have “little talk” (that’s what I call it when I take a student aside in the hallway) with ______. He really smells. Or you could just put me next to ______ (this person’s best friend….I don’t think so)
3. The no homework thing is great except to study our notes or look for things on our own that go with what we are studying. I’m going to keep getting my classwork done, so I won’t have to do it at home. (The standing homework in my class is to review notes every day. I also encourage students to use books and the Internet to find out more about what we are currently studying. I explain to them that their research could very well become a topic for a post here at History Is Elementary).
4. I know we don’t do it everyday, but I really hate it when we get into groups. Do I have to do this? (I had a private “little talk” with this student and let them give me a list of students they thought they could work with. When I set up groups in the future I referred to the list. The student felt they had some control, and I still pushed the student to try group activities)
5. The explorers test was so hard. I can’t remember all of those guys and all of those things they did. Can I do something to help my grade? Make the test easier for your students next year. (I have discussed my explorers unit before here at HIE and I agree that the state of Georgia is asking too much of nine year old children. I try to include projects and other assignments so that a unit grade is not just the test).
6. I love it when you just sit on your stool and tell us stories. How do you remember all that stuff? You don’t even look at anything. Can you just tell us stories all the time? (I do love to tell the stories).
7. I’d like to do more projects. You said we were going to learn about the colonies next. Can we do Internet research and create slideshows? (Sounds like a good idea to me….)
8. The notes. Why do we have to take notes? Can we have less notes? What good are notes? I keep loosing them. (This young man and I had a few “little talks” and we devised a method for him to have his notes and keep up with them as well. Notebooks are very important in my room. If they don’t’ have their notebook they can’t study their notes.)
9. I hate it when we are busy with class and the intercom keeps coming on or the telephone rings, or someone comes to the door to talk with you. You don’t need to be so nice. Tell them we are busy and to go away. That’s what my mom tells salespeople that come to our door. (Sweetie, I agree. It’s kind of hard to tell the principal to go away).
10. Less work. More recess. (Short and to the point….got to admire him though).
11. I got to read your website last night. Since it’s not for students my mom reads it first and then lets me read it if it’s G or PG. I love it. I wish we could see your website in class. When are you going to write some more about us? Oh….and another thing I lost my coat last week. It’s purple and has a hood, and it’s from Old Navy. My mom says I have to find it. Any ideas? (There are always a few who forget the purpose of the assignment)
12. When are we going to get to the American Revolution? I can’t wait. Native Americans are BORING. You tried, you really tried to make interesting. It’s not you, it’s me. I want to learn about a war, any war. (Have I got wars for you…..just wait my wee man!)
13. I really wasn’t trying to hit you with that paper hornet yesterday. Honest. I’m sorry you were mad. Can we talk about it again now that we have had time to “cool down”? (This young man whizzed the biggest paper hornet towards me I have ever seen and it hit me….well, it hit me in the chest, shall we say…..and I was a bit upset I had been injured, but I was more upset that my class discussion was derailed.)
So there you have it. Feel free to assess my efforts with this website if you want to in the comments.
Find more 13s to read and enjoy.