Teaching reflections about this year

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In my previous post, I wrote about what my students had to say regarding their learning and what they consider they needed to improve for next year. In ths post I will reflect on what they liked about the class, what they consider I should improve and what last words they had for me.

What I liked about the class:

For this analysis, I categorized and marked how many students said what. The way I see it, students don’t mention everything they like, and in many cases, when you ask them to write feedback about your class, what they write depends a lot on how they’re feeling, if they like you in general, how you treated them five minutes ago, etc. It also has to do with how used to they are on providing feedback and their consciousness on the importance of being honest in the process. I believe they write what impacted them the most and what they remember the most. In the end, that’s what matters…what they remember you did.

Throughout the year, I did reflections and asked for feedback as I provided feedback in the same way in order for students to get used to receiving and giving it. With this in mind, I trust they were honest in their words.

Here’s what my students liked about the class:

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There is no doubt that students liked the variety of activities (x20), which I match with Teacher’s creativity (x1), class dynamic (x3) and reading outside (x1). Throughout the year I tried to include many new strategies, seating arrangements such as the U form (x1), activities in groups and pairs (x1) as well as whole group, in-class flips, reading types and technology (x1). I made sure everyone participated (x1) at different moments and know their participation was important.

An example of an activity worth mentioning are my writing tasks. I asked students to write digital narratives using the digital storytelling online website www.storyjumper.com (x1).  I loved using this website and most students liked it too. Some of them were really honest in telling me they didn’t like having to take the time to create the digital stories (adding images, photos, text, etc.), which I found sad and lazy of them. However, most did like it and it’s a great tool, so if you haven’t used it,  give it a try!

Song activities are always great (x6). This year I asked students to analyse a song they liked (which couldn’t contain violent or sexual content) and they were assessed in their ability to identify new vocabulary, figurative language, identify themes, explain the overall meaning of the song and provide conclusions. This was an oral presentation (x2). I would definitely plan this activity again for next year. Moreover, some students loved being able to listen to music (x1) while they were reading or doing an individual activity. They were always welcome to use their headphones and smartphones or ipods/mp3s to listen to music as long as  they concentrated on their work. Some worked perfectly well with this option and students who couldn’t concentrate simply did their work in silence.

Of course, it’s always great to read that students like everything (x3) about your class and that they like YOU – the teacher (x1), but I know there’s always things to work on and improve.

It was definitely nice to know that a student liked how we “analyzed life”, the laughs we had in class- which are as important as the serious work- and the feedback I provided. In terms of feedback, I gave stickers, used stamps, put happy faces and took the time to write individual notes to students to congratulate them on something specific they did or to call their attention on something I wanted them to improve. I also wrote them end of the year letters with advice and words to keep in mind for next year. Yes… I taught 7th graders, but who doesn’t love stickers!!! In my teaching experience I’ve learned that no one is ever too old to receive a sticker or happy face for a job well done.

What Martha could improve in her teaching

In this respect, 9 students said there was nothing to improve because they loved my class. Awww. So sweet! However, I know this is not true. Of course I need to improve things… I’m always learning to be a better teacher!
So some students (3) mentioned they would like more classes outside of the classroom (OK. Noted!) One student said I should explain better (1 out of 26! Not so bad, if I do say so myself!), another student mentioned not liking an activity called the ‘Onion Ring‘ and another one said she’d like to read more in class. Moreover, what 6 students mentioned had to do with classroom management, mainly referring to the noise they make in class and being more strict or hard on them to quiet them down. I agree. When I started teaching this particular group, I noticed they were used to being quieted down with high tones of voice or a very hard attitude on the teacher’s part. That’s not me.
So one of the strategies that worked the most was staying quier and telling them I would continue my class when they were ready to pay attention. Students would eventually notice I was just looking at them and they would let me continue with the class. I tried raising my hand, took points away and reflected on their attitude, but it was never easy, plus I refused to scream at them or treat them bad (which sadly seems to be what works the most). So in my reflection on this aspect, I know I need to try new strategies out. Suggestions, tips and strategies are welcome! I know there’s a lot of classroom management experts out there. I’d appreciate any help!

Something I want to say to Martha

Finally, students had the option to add something to their feedback of the class and say something else to me. Here’s what some of them had to say (I’m posting the ones that impacted me the most):

I feel happy and honored to touch lives in different ways. These words remind me of the importance of putting my heart into everything I do!

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