It was my friend and colleague’s idea to make her students do an online survey about her this year, and when I saw all her little students pile into the computer lab and start clicking away about their opinions of their teacher, I knew I wanted to do the same thing.
I designed a survey on surveymonkey.com for my 7th graders to take today. There were two surveys, actually; one about the stuff we did this year in class, and the other about how I am as a teacher. Kids happily filled out data, reflected on our year together, and were soon off to work on their silent (which is to say “talkative”) reading or their final projects about books they’re reading.
After my two sections filled out their surveys, I waited to look at the results. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the honest truth from the mouths of babes, but then again, it’s maybe the only way I can acknowlege it myself. It wasn’t until one of my students wrote something difficult that I realized I’d been feeling the same way all year but hadn’t been willing to verbalize it.
And then there were the kids who affirmed, time and again, the happiness they feel when they were in class this year. One student wrote, “I felt very happy I was learning and then Ms. C made a fun comment about that. I felt smart because my English grade improved from the previous year. I felt curious because I always wanted to go to Ms. C´s class and learn.” Another explained her feelings about coming to class: “I felt happy because I knew that we had English with Ms.C and we knew that she was really nice and not sometimes mean as other teachers sometimes were. I felt exited because I knew that in the next period we had English and that made me excited because we would learn more things and want to learn more things. I felt smart because always when Ms.C explained us something, after we had to show her that we understood by making projects and homeworks about what we had learned.”
I think still my goal is to continue helping students feel good to be in school. I want to show them not to be afraid to take the big risks that life presents us with, and I want to show them always to examine different perspectives, to be honest, and always, always to love what they’re doing.
The survey responses weren’t all happy and glowy, though. The kids were very blunt about what they observed. Take, for instance, this student: “She is not the teacher that only plays and gives easy things to do, she is also an angry teacher, when necessary, and the class shows a huge respect for her.” And oh, wow, do I remember those angry moments. Moments when my students’ behavior was enough to make my blood boil, or I had discovered some had been cheating or plagiarizing. They were moments when my voice dropped low, when I felt my lips purse, and my eyes scan the room counting the seconds until the class would settle into a nervous silence. They were the moments when it took all my restraint not to go off the wall, and all of my restraint to make sure the words that came out of my mouth would be memorable for not just a week but for several years. Those were the times when what came out of my mouth were lessons about honesty, kindness, and justice. And those were the moments, according to the survey responses, that my kids remember until today.
In the end, I’m not sure it will matter all that much if my students know the difference between a block style business letter and one that uses a modified block style. I’m not sure if they’ll remember the author of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” or the meaning of the word “flounder.” In the end, I think what matters is how they will treat other people because they have been in this class together. In the end, I think what matters is the lessons about honesty, kindness, and justice and that they keep those lessons in the forefront of their minds and actions, everyday.
I wrote all of my students letters over the past couple of days and gave the letters to them today, after they finished completing the surveys for me. I thanked them for their hard work, and wished them luck for the coming years. I told them how they’d made me laugh, and I said I couldn’t imagine this year without each of them. One girl, as she hugged me in thanks for receiving the letter, said, “I love you.” Other boys and girls called out thanks as they left the room, and one boy gave me a hug, bending down. “You’re too small, Ms. C,” he said. I think we were the same size when the year started.
“There are no words to describe what was class with Ms.C and I think that I will not ever be safe and excited with any other teacher exept Ms.C AND THANKS MS.C. I AND THE WHOLE REST OF THE CLASS WILL NEVER FORGET YOU YOU WILL ALWAYS BE IN OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU(THIS IS NOT THAIS NOR ANY OTHER GIRL IN THAIS’S CLASS IT IS A BOY TALKING thanksssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss)
So freaking cute. MAN, I love these kids so much.