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What do our Students Teach Us?

On most days, I feel as if I learned more from my students than they did from me.  While they are the students, technically speaking, they school me on a regular basis.  And that is one of the main reasons why I still love teaching after 14 years.  My grandmother always said, “You learn something new everyday.”  Indeed, my students teach me many new things on a daily basis.  I’ve always been of the mindset that a great teacher must be an inquisitive student.  So, it’s fitting that my students and I learn together like one big, happy family.

Today in Humanities, the students revised a piece of writing they chose to polish and receive feedback on.  I first explained how the feedback I provided to them was different from the feedback they had received earlier in the year.  Instead of wondering and wishing, I was more blunt and specific; I asked questions and told them areas in need of repair.  This change in feedback format was due to the feedback the students gave me.  They seemed confused by the wonderings and wishes I had given them regarding their last writing piece.  They didn’t know if that meant I thought their piece was good or bad.  They wanted more clear-cut feedback.  So, I gave it to them.  The students then read through the feedback I had provided them at the end of the piece and spent the period working on growing their piece based on this feedback.  They were engaged in the process of writing throughout the period.  It was exciting to meander through the river of stories and watch them ebb and flow.  Some of the students asked questions about the feedback I had provided, while others simply continued working on their piece or changed parts to make them stronger.

At the end of the period, I asked the students how the feedback provided to them this time around compared to the feedback I provided to them earlier in the year.  They all seemed to like this style of feedback much more.  “It was easier to understand.”  I knew exactly what I needed to fix.”  “I wasn’t confused by what I needed to do.”  These were just some of the responses I received.  They like specificity more than open-endedness.  Not knowing scares them.  While I was surprised by how much they preferred this type of feedback, I was excited that they felt it was much more beneficial to them as writers.  Had I not asked them about this a few weeks ago, I never would have changed the manner in which I provide feedback to the students.  I learned how they learn best and adapted the way I teach due to it.  Growth happens when effective feedback is provided.  I am just like my students.  It’s funny how cyclical teaching can be.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the “real” teacher is.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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