Monday, December 9, 2013

I asked my students, "How am I Doing?"

As teachers, we often ask students how they are doing in class. We assess them, using both formative and summative systems.  We give them grades, points, percentages, and goals to reach.  We ask for thumbs up, thumbs down, nods, etc. to figure out their understanding.  We not only do all this to figure out how they're doing academically, but we also ask them questions and make observations to figure out how they're doing socio-emotionally.  It's typically all about us figuring out them, not the other way around.

I turned the tables on my students today.  I ask them to let me know how I'm doing.  It's not often that I honestly ask my students how they think I'm doing as their teacher, or if they feel there is something I should change to make their classroom experience better.

Today, I changed that.  At the end of the day, my students spent the last 15-20 minutes of class answering questions on this Google survey that I put together.

This is the survey.  The fifth question was only asked once- just copied here twice!  

I was especially interested in the final five questions of the survey.  The answers my students gave really surprised me.  For the most part, I was surprised in a good way!  Also, a few students gave some honest insights about what's going on during recess and lunch that I would have never been aware of had I not asked them to do this survey.  The survey was and will remain confidential between me and each individual student.  I asked them to write their names in case I need to privately ask some of them for further information.  There are a few cases where I actually do need to ask for more information, so I am glad I decided not to make it anonymous.

In short, here's what my students told me:

60% feel fifth grade is great so far.
32% feel that fifth grade is good so far.
2% feel that fifth grade is ok so far.
No one feels that fifth grade could be better, is not good, or awful so far.

My response:  Phew! 

My students' favorite parts vary greatly.  Responses include reading workshop, Alcatraz and Aquarium field trips, the teachers, social studies, bean bags for sitting, writing workshop, the classroom blog, math, exploration, genius hour, and more.

My students least favorite parts also vary.  Responses include taking tests, math, social studies, writing, nothing, too much nonfiction writing, not enough creative writing, and more.

My response:  I hate tests, too.  I wish I could just stop giving them altogether.  Many students specifically said they want to do more creative, fiction writing.  Yes, all we do is nonfiction writing in fifth grade (personal narrative, response to literature, information, memoir, and persuasive).  I want to change this.  

Things students want me to change about the classroom include eliminating tests, changing nothing, adding a quiet nap time, giving more freedom to chose what they do, and a few more mentions about tests.  In fact, there were a lot of mentions about tests.

My response:  There will be no nap time in fifth grade.  No way.  This is fifth grade.  We don't nap.  However, I do want to decrease the number of tests we give.  Children who are 10 and 11 years old should not feel stressed out.  I know some of them do on test days. This is something I want to change.

Here is what they felt about homework:

88% feel we have just the right amount.
8% feel we have too much.
4% want more homework.

My response:  I hate homework.  I hate giving it, grading it, and returning it.  However, I hate the thought of sending my students to middle school unprepared even more.  So, homework stays as is.  Plus, I was shocked that most of my students feel we have just the right amount (which is 20-30 minutes of reading each school night and one math or spelling page).  I do not give any homework on weekends or over holidays.

The final question was a huge eye opener.  Most students wrote that there was nothing else they feel they needed to tell me.  A few students mentioned bullying at recess and lunch.  Some others described being locked out of games at recess and lunch.  I will definitely follow up with these students privately for more information and hopefully to stop the hurtful behavior.  A few took this question as their opportunity to give me a compliment or to ask for more free choice time.

I am so glad that I gave this survey.  I have such great information now that I may have not received otherwise.  Teachers, I highly recommend asking your students how they feel you're doing in class!


  1. I was especially interested in your reasoning as to why you had asked for student's names in the survey, the fact that you can follow up with them on those out of class problems is a great use of your survey! Sounds like you have gained lots of insights into your student's experience- a view into your classroom through their eyes. Well done!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jasper! I appreciate the feedback. I also plan to give another survey like this in a couple months. Also, I've noticed our classroom dialogue, both formal and casual, has been more open since the survey. We all had a good level of trust before, but I think the survey really raised that level. Thanks again!


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