Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My First Semester in Highschool: Evaluated? Check.

For those of you who know me, you know I've taught all grades K-12, but it's been a long while since I've been in the highschool full-time. This year, I requested a local transfer from my elementary "home" to the highschool because I felt I needed the stretch. It's not that I didn't feel challenged at the elementary level, but more that I really wanted to understand what happened after the kids left grade 5.

I'm in a unique position, since many of the students I see were also students of mine in 2nd and 3rd grade. But, that's for another post. ;-)

I've been in co-teaching roles here so I did not get surveys out for those classes, but I did survey my newcomers.

And yes--for those who always ask me this: I was nervous doing it! (It's even more nervewracking to post it publicly, but I feel there's value to what they said, and I have found value in seeking honest feedback.) These are older kids, far more fickle and dramatic on some days than my younger kids, but also more astute and honest, for which I am grateful.

This year, since I have students who benefit from the one-to-one initiative and have their own laptops, I was finally able to try a Google survey with them. Many of them had never logged into their email accounts before coming to my class, so we have made some small technological strides. It also indicates room for growth in using tech tools within our school.

The Google survey has a convenient space under the question/ statement for translations:

A snapshot of what the Google survey looks like.

I know that many of you have multiple languages represented, but this modification is something to consider. (especially if you use a translation tool, you can cut and paste and make 2-3 versions quickly) It was still challenging for my students to read the answers, so we went through each together. Surveys are nice because they offer several options--multiple choice, select one response, or select multiple responses from a list like the one above. Additionally, they have space for short answer responses, or longer ones. You can also mark which questions are required, so they can't exit the survey without having answered them. 

For all of my newcomers, this type of survey was a first-time experience, especially the last question, which was a short answer response. 

My Spanish is not, ahem, the best in the world (but I do love learning a little of each of my students' languages--that's my nerd hobby), but I told them to write as much as they could in English, but use their native language. 

  • All but one said they learned "a lot". One said "a little". 
  • All admitted I was "very knowledgeable". (whew.)
  • Favorite activities were: writing, working on computers, and labelling pictures
  • Least favorite activities were: reading, writing, and penpals
  • Activities they learned the most from were: reading, writing, labelling pictures, and drawing ( I find it interesting when activities they learn the most from are also their least favorite--the optimist in me likes to think it's a labor of love, or that they understand the value of hard work!) 
  • Activities they learned the least from: our penpal experience  (at least we tried)
  • Surprises: mixed bag on our cooking--some really loved but a couple really did not enjoy it (I would have never known that based on their behavior in the kitchen!)
  • Suggestions for me: many were about continuing on with their favorite activities or getting rid of their least favorite
  • The most substantive comments were for me to be "more demanding" with the students and to give them more work! 
So, in preparation for next semester, I am re-thinking my expectations, their workload, and what I ask of them in class, as well as outside of class. Some of them will move into my ESL 1 class, but many of them will also be in my World History class as newcomers. Challenges ahead, but fostering this kind of communication definitely helps. 

I've been slack on keeping up my blog this semester--look for more notes next semester from co-teaching adventures in a World History class, as well as my ESL classes.

I would love to know how others conduct surveys and foster honest conversations in your classrooms!

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