Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Survey Says? Ask them

Survey Says? Ask Them

What’s the countdown? Ten days left of kids, 11 or 12 for us teachers. ...  I know it’s been a long year. I know that both kids AND teachers (and everyone else) are ready for a long break...

Quick -- what’s the number one thing that kids in my classes had to say during my last year in the classroom? Do you know the answer? Survey says? “We hate keeping a notebook! Let’s turn in assignments separately!”

Do you know how I know that? I asked my students.

As you wade through the end of the year chaos, do final grades, grade projects, attend award ceremonies, pack up your classroom, plan your vacations, chaperone prom, and do all that other seasonal stuff, try to squeeze in a few minutes to reflect on this school year.

How did your year go? How was your teaching? How was your classroom management? How do you know?

If you want to know how to get real, honest, knowledgeable feedback about your class, consider surveying your students about THEIR experience in your class this year. It sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to get students’ feedback is to ask them. If we want to know the impact we’re having on kids, we need to ask the kids.
Wait, wait, wait. Hear me out.

Do you remember being an adolescent yourself? I’m pretty sure that in middle school and high school, I announced that “those teachers” had “no clue” about being me. There IS one way to avoid being the teacher who has “no clue” about the realities of your class or of being a teenager (as if you missed that phase of life, amiright?). Honestly, one of the best ways to get students’ feedback and learn what is important to them in class is to ask them.

We, your district social studies office, often assess and reflect on OUR year, too. I just recently sent out a couple of surveys for teachers to provide valuable input on several things. I feel very strongly that if we, your district Social Studies department want to know what teachers want, we should find out. We should ask them.

I had a rough experience with a national chain restaurant recently. I gave them feedback online and got an amazingly specific email in response that explained how that chain was going to fix the problem. If a chain restaurant wants to get a customer’s business back, it should ask them about their successes and areas for improvement. If they want to know the impact they’re having on the customers, they should ask them

It’s definitely time for we-the-teachers, to reflect and learn from our successes and our areas of growth. We need to learn from our students by asking them.

I know that the idea of getting the opinions of adolescents is a little weird. I mean, they’re KIDS! They love you one day and curse you the next. They make an “A” the first marking period and a “D” the next. They change hairstyles and boyfriends and opinions at the drop of a hat. And, of course, you will have to take a few with a grain of salt. The kid who says you should “never do any work” is obviously not asking to be taken seriously.

But overall, your kids will surprise you with their thoughtfulness and their honesty and their perceptiveness.

You don’t have to ask for students to put their names on their surveys. You don’t have to tell your colleagues or administrators what the surveys said, or what you asked or even that you gave one at all. This is just for you and your own professional contemplation.

Ask them -- survey your kids to get specific, useful feedback to help you improve your craft next year. Ask your kids about your class -- and give them an opportunity to give you feedback. Ask them about your classroom management, your content knowledge, your assignments & tests, your lessons & teaching style, your professionalism. DO it paper and pencil or on Survey Monkey or another survey website.

Here are a few Dos and Don’ts about end-of-the-year surveys

...give one to every kid (yes, even THAT kid)
...make your surveys anonymous
...make your survey specific about your teaching and classroom culture

...attach your survey to Portal (kids need freedom to be honest) the wheel. Use one of the links below
...make it a quiz or content based

Here are a few suggested links, if you’re interested in trying one this year or even just thinking about it!

Here’s an end-of-year survey I created and used in the past...

Here’s several different end-of-year surveys from Google Docs

Here’s a Social Studies/tech blogger taking on the student survey idea, too

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