Do You Ask For Their Opinion?

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I went 4 years without asking those who matter most what they thought of my teaching.  I went 4 years without asking the tough questions, 4 years without opening up a final line of communication, 4 years afraid of what I might hear.  2 years ago I finally created the end of year parent and student survey, I remember it well.  I made it, took a deep breath, and then hit send.  I didn’t know what I would hear, what parents would tell me, but I knew I needed to ask.  The students were just as hard, the kids we teach are so good at telling us what they think we want to hear.  They are so good at not hurting our feelings, yet to grow as a teacher and person I had to get their honest opinion.  So I started asking them as well.

Now, even though this is my 3rd year asking, I am still afraid.  I work so hard all year trying to make the year the very best year for a child, yet I know I am human.  I know I mess up.  I know that I still have room to grow and things to work on.  And so, I continue to hit publish on my end of year survey.  I continue to send it out to parents and ask them to please help me grow.  I continue to read their answers, take them to heart and learn from them.  Even the tough answers, even the ones where I wish I had known earlier, where I wish I could change the past.  I read those too.  And the students with all of their feelings, their opinions, their advice; I read it, I reflect on it, and in the end I grow.  Even if it hurts, even if it reminds me that I am not perfect.

Do you ask for their opinion at the end of the year?  Do you make sure that those we make the biggest difference to have a way to help you grow?  Don’t be afraid, take the leap, and open up the discussion.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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11 thoughts on “Do You Ask For Their Opinion?

  1. Pernille,

    I could not agree more with this post! Ever since I have started asking my students for feedback (both in formal and informal ways), I have acquired a much better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher.

    To be sure, asking for feedback is nerve wrecking, and no, not all of it is helpful, but the vast, vast majority of students will offer very useful suggestions. And, if we offer students an opportunity to help shape what takes place in our classrooms, it is much easier to engage them in their learning. I only wish that I would have started this practice earlier…

  2. So much that makes it hard to hit send!

    Yet I also find that nearly everyone responds well when I start with “I really want to be a better teacher. Can you help me improve by telling me what I do that works for you and what I do that doesn’t work?”

    Also helps to distance it a little when I can say something like, “We’ve used these three strategies this month while working on fractions. Which of them was most useful? What made it useful? Least useful?” etc.

  3. gillis says:

    I haven’t done end-of-year surveys for the past several years, some years they have been very helpful in my practice and others they have been less so because our time together was ending- if that makes sense. Too specific to the group and our year? I think my questions were faulty and will be using yours to frame something new. Thank you for sharing this, thank you for teaching us through your practice.

  4. Miss Trayers says:

    I do a survey every year and like you, brace myself for the results. But I have not gotten more than 3 parents to respond each year. I do it online so it will be anonymous-but maybe there’s a better way to ensure that feedback. My students are a little young-they love me and the activities we do no matter what-so it makes it hard to get something genuine from them either. But I do think it could be a worthwhile tool.

  5. Andrea says:

    I really love this idea and yet am terrified of hitting the send. I teach high school juniors and they can be brutal. But if it helps me become better, I guess a little brutality is worth it.

    • I get that completely, and sometimes I have to take an even deeper breath before I read them. I do not have them do it anonymously because we stand behind our words in our classroom, that does help with it being more constructive criticism than just criticism.

  6. Joellen says:

    fantastic submit, very informative. I wonder why the opposite
    experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must proceed your
    writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  7. andyv10 says:

    I enjoyed reading this and agree that asking their opinion is critical in giving us the feedback that we need to continue improving as educators. Whenever I have done this with my students, it really is eye-opening to get their feedback. I think that one of my strongest points of teaching is that I really show the kids I care about them. I had one student write in feedback, “I wish he listened and cared more.” I was a bit shocked to read this, but it made me reflect on whether or not I do spread equal caring attention out amongst my learners. As you say, there is a bit of fear associated with sending out these feedback forms. You really never know what you are going to get back.

    However, it is so important to remove emotion and to truly evaluate responses from our students, even if we disagree with them. I am a workshop leader and consultant. One of the very first things I do when I present is to show one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes: “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive, who is Youer than You.” I make the point of stressing that we are all extremely unique as teachers and learners. Our students are all distinctly different and unique as well. It is imperative that we truly get to know who our learners are each and every year.

    When I got the feedback from the student who said they had wished I listened more and cared more, I made it a goal to do just that. To spread out the attention I give. To truly get to know my learners and to look in their eyes and listen. To be present for them when it is their turn to speak, share, ask, and tell. It has made me a better educator and would only have been possible if I reached our to ask for their opinions. Thanks for sharing this blog post Pernille.

  8. This post inspired me to ask my students’ opinion for the first time (well, in an organized way at least!) I put together a survey for my students about how well their elementary school library is meeting their needs. http://reslibrarynews.blogspot.com/2014/06/res-library-scholar-survey-resvt-cesuvt.html Thank you for the push! – Beth Redford, Richmond Elementary School, Vermont

  9. […] got the idea to create surveys from Pernille Ripp. She is a huge fan of using surveys to help her reflect on how to gauge just about anything. I […]

  10. […] the comfort and safety of our keyboard? Pernille Ripp wrote a very honest piece a month ago titled Do You Ask For Their Opinion? in which she reflects on the power of giving parents a seat at the […]

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