12 months ago, on the last day of the school year, my entire staff went to the local bar and got a bottle of champagne to celebrate finally being done one of the worst experiences of our lives. It was a terrible year that affected me both mentally and physically, and I was so happy to be done.
Fast-forward to now. While I’m still happy to be done, this year doesn’t feel at all the same. Yes I’m exhausted, and I’m thinking about all the things I should and could have done differently, but I no longer feel worthless and incompetent. It’s been a pretty good year, overall, and I’m definitely sticking with this teaching thing for a while.
I already know I am my harshest critic, so I was wary of just saying what I didn’t like about the year. To augment, I gave my students an end-of-year survey to complete for my classes, basically a way for them to give me some feedback. The survey was online so they had to complete it at home, which definitely biased the results, but I did get some interesting feedback that I’m going to try to summarize here. I’ll add in my own two cents as I go through.
I taught roughly 112 sophomores and about 28 freshmen this year, and got about 54 responses on my survey total. The survey was optional to be done at home, so obviously there is some bias. Only kids that really liked me or really didn’t would take their time to say something. But even from that I can gain some insights. I should also note that it was anonymous to help encourage kids to be honest.
Things Going Well
First, the fact that a third of my kids felt compelled enough to fill out a survey is a good thing. Now some analytics, courtesy of Google Forms:
Those are definitely positive. I’d be curious to see the “Learned a Lot” question broken down by subject, because I know many of the freshmen felt the class moved too slow. I’d also be curious to see how their scores for that question match their grades, but I worry I might get spiteful about the information.
Two more that’s aren’t as strong, but still useful to know.
So clearly I challenged kids, but not quite as much as I would have liked. Also, it seems my tutoring hours (which I called Baker’s Brigade) could have been more productive for the kids. I think that I definitely need to improve the structure, but the overall impression I got was that kids found the time helpful to sit with me and their friends just doing math.
“Areas for Growth”
I posted the graphs with no introduction because I’m not sure how to introduce them. As far as the Regents exam (which for those of you don’t know is what we call our state exams in NY) I wasn’t surprised. Regents prep is not a huge focus at our school, so we don’t really talk about it, so kids just have this amorphous test out there in June. And the freshmen especially had one semester to do an entire year of Geo, so I’d expect them to be wary. Overall, though, all the kids met our expectations for their test scores, and I’m very lucky in that regard.
The other question is problematic for a number of reasons. First, I’m not really happy with the question, because it would indicate that I scream at the kids and I don’t; I get frustrated with them a lot. And some more than others. I call it “losing my temper” but I’m not sure that’s the best word choice. But that said, I definitely need to level out my responses to things. I sometimes meet kids with a “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” incredulity than a more productive “Does this really seem like a decision someone like you should be making?” Just in general I want to be more mellow. Which is not to say less strict, just more…even, I guess. It’s hard for me to articulate, and I think I’m too hard on myself about it, but being consistent in my general emotional state is something I want to continue to improve on.
These were kind of all over the place. The “You know you’ve had Mr. B when…” question was one of my favorites, just because of the sheer volume of comments about killing kittens and puppies. There were also a lot of comments about my math jokes, as well as one or two kids who felt the need to point out that it takes me forever to grade things.
Under the “Advice for Mr. Baker” I got both the “Keep up the great work” and the “Quit teaching you suck” responses, which were as inevitable as they were useless. But I also had quite a few comments about having more control over the classroom. A growth area for me is definitely cracking down on kids calling out at inappropriate times, especially by calling out the answer. I think a lot of learning opportunities are lost in that way, and while I try to be strict about it, I think I sometimes unintentionally play favorites. This goes back to the consistency piece I mentioned earlier. Consistency makes such a difference in the classroom and I want to really work on that.
I thought about making the responses public but some of them verge a little too close to being too personal, so I won’t.
One Last Thing:
I did want to say one last thing about the surveys. One of the students that responded did not enjoy my class. This student was very blunt in their response to my survey that they didn’t learn a lot this year and that they felt I was in the wrong profession (going so far as to say “Who in the goddamn world thought and said: ‘you would be a good teacher’.”).
I’m not going to lie, it stung a little. Not like curled up on the couch crying into my wine, but I am a person and I care very much about my job. I spoke with both my APs and two other teachers at school about it, and in the end I was able to mine the comments for some meaningful kernals about classroom management (which I’ve already commented on above).
The reason I bring this up is to encourage other teachers to put themselves out there and solicit feedback from students. The positive and constructive feedback I got is what I can go back to this summer and next year if I’m having a bad time. Knowing that kids enjoyed my class and actually seemed to learn something helped make the end-of-year stress go easier. That’s the part to hold on to, and I think having a bad hour while I processed that bad response doesn’t overwrite the positive stuff I got out of it.