Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Looking Back on the Year

As the end of the year approaches, I like to take this time to look back at the year and think about what worked and what didn’t. I tend to be a list maker so I like to jot down a list of all the projects or lessons that I have taught this year. Beside each one I write “W” for the ones that were successful. For the other ones, I decide which ones I will do again and which ones I want to scrap. For the ones I want to do again, I make a separate chart with columns for the lesson, the problem, and possible solutions. I also like to talk it over with my colleagues (usually during lunch) and bounce ideas off of them because they usually come up with great suggestions. I also run it by my husband (a non-educator) to get a different point of view. The end of the year is the best time to do this because I have all summer to think of other possibilities about these topics or other topics that might be better.

Since I have students for multiple years, I also like to take this time to survey my students. Sometimes I make it a part of the final exam so I have to prepare it before the exam day. I like to give a rating scale with the list of all the projects/lessons and they rate them on a scale of 1-5 (1 for dislike a lot and 5 for like a lot). I also ask the students to write short answers on what they liked the best, the least (they usually put homework), what they would like for me to do differently, and what topics they are interested in learning more about next year. My students take this survey very seriously because the students, who have had me before, know I use this information to plan a lot of my lessons. One time they complained about having to learn about a topic and when I showed them the survey that I used for planning, they got quiet. The student who wrote about that topic said that he was just joking and didn’t think I really read them. In fact, about the beginning of May, some of my students start discussing what they want to put down on the survey.

I know that I have to fill out evaluations on my college professors at the end of the course so I don’t understand why some teachers won’t do the same for their own students. My students always feel great that I respect them enough to not only want their opinion but to actually take a lot of it to heart and adjust some of my lessons. I know that growing up as a straight “A” student with very strict parents causes me to see lessons from a different perspective than my special education students who have faced tremendous challenges. They have taught me so much because they try to help me learn how to teach them effectively and if they don’t know how, we try to find the solution together. All students seem to learn differently and do not fit into the cookie cutter shape so with their input, I’m able to teach them concepts and skills but they help me learn strategies that I never needed when going through school myself. If students have some input to the “how” while I supply the “what” and “when”, they seem to be more successful in my classroom.

Photo credit: Evaluation by 36widgets


Christine Archer said...

Such great reflection on your part. I love to hear that you also survey your students. I do that every year with my staff. It is invaluable for me as I look to grow professionally.

loonyhiker said...

christine: it is nice to see that you survey your staff too. I know that be allowed to give input means a lot to them.

Bill Gaskins said...

The end of the year is a great time to reflect. Usually I start that mode around March and start writing a plan for the next year. That is what I have been doing for year 2 as a tech coach.