Posted in Education, Students, Teaching

Reflecting on Student Feedback

While I’d like to think that I know everything and have the solution to every problem encountered, I don’t.  I am a work in progress, like every human.  I am constantly changing, evolving, maturing, and growing.  Most of the big changes that I’ve made to my life generally comes from feedback or suggestions from others.  “Hey, you’re really good at helping people understand things.  You should become a teacher,” said a former teacher of mine.  Well, we all know what I did with that feedback.  It’s powerful stuff.

Some of the greatest and most effective changes I’ve made to the sixth grade program over the years stems from feedback provided by the students.  I changed my approach to teaching reading and writing based on the feedback I received from the students.  They didn’t like reading the same book altogether because many of them found my choices boring.  They wanted to read books that they chose.  So, we now utilize the workshop approach to teaching reading and writing so that the boys have options and choices.  Seeking feedback from my students has made me a better teacher over the years.  I crave their thoughts and ideas on what we do in the sixth grade because I know that my perspective is very different from theirs.  I don’t know everything.  I want to craft the most effective and enjoyable sixth grade program possible, and I feel as though asking for feedback from my students is a really easy way to do this.

Today the students completed the end of the year sixth grade survey to provide me with feedback on our sixth grade program.  I kept the questions broad for the most part so that the boys had choices and options when providing my co-teacher and I with feedback.  I made sure to emphasize how important receiving relevant and appropriate feedback is to us, in the hopes that they would put great effort into completing the form via Google Forms.  I was impressed with their responses as many of the boys seemed to really take their time in providing us with valuable feedback.  I feel as though we received some useful feedback that will allow us to develop and change the sixth grade program for the better.

Takeaways

  • The students really enjoyed our field experiences this year.  They loved leaving the classroom to learn.  Most of the boys cited our trip to Cape Cod as their favorite memory.  A few students even mentioned the bonding opportunities that were provided through these field trips.  They seemed to really enjoy spending time together.  It’s great to know that the students have noticed how we try to foster a sense of community within the class.  They see the value and importance of this aspect of our program.  That feels good.  So, while our budget will be cut for next year, forcing us to remove some of the traditional field trips we’ve done in the sixth grade for years now, we will need to be mindful of how important these community bonding opportunities are for the boys.
  • The students really treasured the freedom and choice with which our curriculum provides them.  They loved reader’s workshop and being able to choose their own books.  They enjoyed having the freedom to choose their topics for the research project we completed during the spring term in Humanities class.  They loved the STEM projects that allowed them to creatively solve problems and generate unique solutions.  Although the brain research tells us that students learn best when they are engaged and see the relevance in the learning, which is why we have developed our program accordingly, it’s always excellent to hear that it’s working and that the students truly are engaged in our classroom.  I’ll be sure to keep these components firmly rooted within the sixth grade curriculum for at least the next academic year.
  • The boys thoroughly enjoyed the Stock Market project we did in STEM class a few months back.  They seemed to like the competition component as well as learning the basics of investing and all about how the stock market works.  While I really like teaching this unit, I was surprised by how much the boys liked it.  I thought for sure that they would have liked the hands-on projects a bit more, but I was mistaken.  Perhaps they saw the relevance of the unit as I feel I did a fine job explaining the reasons why we were covering the Stock Market in STEM class.  Maybe.  Regardless of the reasons why they enjoyed it so much, I need to make sure that we include competitive projects and units in the sixth grade program next year.
  • Every student seemed to have a blast in the sixth grade this year.  They loved almost every aspect of our program and seemed to learn a lot about the world and themselves.  So many of the boys responded with something to the effect of, “Nothing needs to change because it’s already perfect.”  It feels great knowing that my co-teacher and I created a phenomenally challenging and supportive sixth grade program this year.  Although we were a bit worried about how the students would take to the program this year as we tried some new approaches and teaching strategies as well as some new content and units, it’s good to know that all of our hard work didn’t go to waste.  The boys really liked their time in the sixth grade this year.  Yah for us!

So, now the fun, yet challenging work begins.  How do we make our sixth grade program even better for next year?  Over the next three months, I’m going to take a hard look at the feedback we received from our students and try to find ways to capitalize on what they enjoyed and change what they didn’t like.  Just think, if I didn’t ask the students for feedback, I would have to deduce all of this on my own.  How do I know what my students liked and didn’t like if I don’t ask them?  Feedback is one of the most powerful tools we have as teachers; it not only makes us better teachers, but better people too.

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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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