Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Getting to Know You...

Asking students for feedback is always a double-edged sword. You're going to get answers that you love and cherish, but they might as well be invisible, because the answers that are tough for you to read seem to eclipse anything bright and cheery.

This year is no different. I've got a fairly (very?) long survey I offer students. (It changes from year to year, but click here for this year's version.) Some complain about it, and some seem to enter their most deepest secrets as they type, type, type their answers.

Here are a few reasons why getting to know students is oh, so important...

Last year, during the last week of school, I asked students what went right this year in ELA - what could they celebrate? In one class, they started talking about all we did NOT do... I was actually thanked for not yelling at the kids, or telling them I'm going to chop off their knee caps or light them on fire. Their words - not mine. This year, I have students who are fearful of such a thing - yelling or embarrassing them in front of others. Granted, sometimes I feel as if I'm "too nice" - on days when I have patience, I can calmly let students know what I need from them, and then slide on over to students who need help or are acting out and quietly have a discussion. Hearing that students will be embarrassed if I raise my voice (or - Heaven forbid - threaten them) reinforces the fact that I need to stay patient. I'm sure, just as with every other year, there will be a day when my own issues or troubles creep into the classroom and I snap a bit and get loud and sound strict. Maybe it won't happen this year - maybe I can keep in mind that many of my students have specifically asked - through the survey - to not be yelled at or cut down in front of the class. Makes me think of Brene Brown and shaming once again...

More than one student has already written a cry for help for ELA class - either for reading or writing - sharing how difficult it is for them.

More than one student has an "annoying" sibling that makes it hard for them to do homework. And at least one of mine misses a sibling that just left for college.

One student has said that both parents are busy - please give him extra time to get in papers signed.

Many of them have great questions for our class that they didn't share during our first week together. Now I can share the answers this week, and calm some of their fears.

Some students are coming to our classes with a chip on their shoulders - they've not had positive experiences up until now, and they're already not looking forward to being with us. It's good to know it's not always personal - some of them come with some baggage that I wouldn't have been aware of had I not asked...

Here are their answers this year to "The perfect teacher is..." I'll be asking them to be the same.
Of course, this is changed and added yearly to our classroom blog here. :)

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