Teacher as Learner

We are halfway through the marking period (how did THAT happen?) so I thought it was time for some student reflection.  I hoped the students might learn something from looking back but I was the one who gained insights instead.

The first survey was a quickwrite in which I asked them, “Since the start of the school year, what has been easy? What has been hard?”  Then I gave them 5 minutes to write.  Like any other writing, some kids wrote furiously the entire time, some wrote a few lines and stopped.  Some made lists and some wrote paragraphs. Many focused on the academic side of school but some wrote about their bus rides and lunch.  That’s one of the things I love about writing, it gives me a window into their brains.  In just five minutes, I could see what was important to them.

What I learned was that Sam, who I thought was grooving along just fine, was actually extremely stressed about my English class and was worried that he might fail.  He couldn’t see very well from where he was sitting either.  I called him back to my desk to talk and he was near tears.  I had absolutely no idea any of this was going on in his head until I read his quickwrite. We talked about his grades (which were fine) and how he might improve them before report cards come out.  I moved his seat.  He is a changed boy now and bounces into class like Tigger.

What I learned was that Calvin has an hour ride on the bus each way. He has to be up at the crack of dawn to eat breakfast and make it to the bus stop.  If he comes in a little cranky or sleepy, now I know why.  I had no idea any of our students had that kind of trek to get to school.  Most of them live within a 5 mile radius of the school, but because of budget cuts, they share a bus route with the high school which starts an hour earlier then we do.  So, they get on, ride the high school route to the high school and then circle back for the middle school riders who live between the high school and our school.  So much for putting the students first. 

What I learned was that the kids feel pretty good overall about how their year has started.  One thought the math teacher on our team was ‘epic’ (which he is, actually) and others loved the fact that they get free seating at lunch (they get to sit with their friends, instead of assigned seats). They loved the history unit on Western Expansion but not the one on Reconstruction.  They loved that their History teacher is very clear about what she expects from them. They learned that when they study for tests, they do better!

What we learned as a team is that we need to space out our quizzes and tests. The kids were stressed about having more then one in a day.  That’s a legitimate concern! We found out they feel like they have a LOT of vocabulary to learn so we are going to streamline and I will teach the Science/History vocabulary in English class.  We learned that, in general, the kids are happy and confident about doing well in school, and that’s a very good thing.

I think the students appreciate that we are actually listening to their concerns. The activity took 5 minutes of instructional time. The results will benefit everyone much longer.

Next time:  Mrs. McG. gets graded!