being a teacher

How We Grow

They tell me to speak less.

To give less reading time.

To give more reading time.

To do more fun stuff.

To do more hands-on activities.

To grow.

To remain the same.

I survey my students periodically.  Whether it surrounds their reading habits, their self-assessments, their view of our classroom, or even their attitudes, surveys are a part of our learning journey.  They have been for many years.  In fact, I owe most of my growth and this blog to the words of my students.

One of the teaching points for me is always that they must put their name on the survey, no anonymity in here, after all, even if they have harsh things to say, they need to find a way to say it without intentional hurt.  Their name on the survey provides me with a chance to follow up.  To thank them for their honesty.  To wonder aloud how can I make their experience better.  To brainstorm or simply connect dependent on their needs. I need to see how our classroom is perceived by individuals, rather than just the group.

So yesterday, after they filled in this attitude survey, one thing stood out above all; we want more hands-on activities.  No surprise there, “hands-on” seems to be the key term whenever I speak to students.  And yet, I try…  Along with my colleagues and the students themselves, we try to plan for movement, for less teacher talk, for activities that excite rather than just sit-and-get and yet; but at the end of the day I still wondered; how do we make reading and writing more hands-on, and what does that even mean?

So today, I asked again; what do you mean?  How can we make our class more hands-on, and the kids responded in kind; more talking, more group projects, more competition at times, even more project choice.  So not what I expected at all.  What they want is more student time, less teacher time.  More choice beyond the choices they already have.

Certainly, we can do that.

And that’s the thing, every single time I give a survey, I grow.  Every single time, I ask for feedback, our students point out the direction that they would like us to take.  They increase ownership and I get to be a more responsive teacher.  It is a win-win, even if at times, their surveys show dissatisfaction.  Show that they don’t love the class.  Show that there are still many things I can work on.  Bottom line though is that if we don’t ask, we won’t know.  If we don’t take a deep breath and hold on to the notion that we are not perfect teachers, then we cannot become better.  No PD opportunity will ever beat the opportunity of growth that our students provide.

So if you give a survey, and I so hope you do, don’t forget though to follow up.  Don’t guess at their answers.  Don’t guess at their reasoning.  Have them put their name on it and then ask them what they mean.  When we remove the assumptions from our classrooms, we only grow stronger as educators.  Once again, our students are here to teach us if only we give them a chance.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.


2 thoughts on “How We Grow”

  1. As my students fill out the survey, I have been made to promise to shred them after I read them. I told them that the only I would read them, and that the survey was designed to help me make this a better place for students. Also, that a dialogue (personal, private, and positive) might follow. I asked for honesty. They are struggling. It appears that this is a new experience indeed. However, as I answer clarifying questions, the tension in the room has eased….something about trust. Thanks once again!

  2. I need to do this more often in my classroom. What a great way to grow as a teachers! Thank you for sharing!

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