Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers
The end of the first marking period has arrived, and with it, piles of stuff to sort through and assess. Project based learning combined with reading and writing workshop present a particular kind of challenge, for you are assessing the process not just the end product…and that takes a LOT of time.
Many years ago, when I first arrived at our middle school, it occurred to me that it would be helpful to ask my students for some reflective feedback about MY performance as a teacher. After all, they were with me every day for three periods and three different subjects, so it would stand to reason that they would be in the best position to offer just the kind of real time feedback that I sorely needed. I remember that my kids were flabbergasted at the idea of grading me (for that is how they saw it, of course), but, given permission to be honest and tell it like it is, their surprise turned into a purposeful glee. The task I set for them was to first reflect upon the highs and lows of the marking period, and use the latter to set new goals for the next marking period. Then, and this was the part they loved, I asked them to write about their teacher, me: in what ways could I better address their learning needs, where could my performance be better?
Turns out, sixth graders are great evaluators. They notice everything, they weigh the good with the not so good, and when they are asked to, they share with insight, honesty, humor, and kindness. I learned a lot then, and I continue to do so.
In today’s batch of letters, my kids talked about homework, about redesigning the classroom space so that we could have “book nooks”, and mentor texts:
They asked for more time to read (is there ever enough in one school day?), and more opportunities to free write, and made suggestions about poets to look into and books to buy for our classroom library. Some noted that I walked around less (true: my old lady woes of fibromyalgia and arthritis often get in the way) which they “kinda missed”, and all wished I would type up mini lessons as handouts because their handwriting was such that they had a hard time reading what they had written down (story of my life as their teacher, I will have to say, because I have this problem, too!).
I love the care with which they thought and wrote, I love how carefully they folded their letters and handed them in with tentative smiles, and I love how this gesture on my part seemed to mean so much to them.
“Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
Children may not obey
But children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.
Careful before you say,
“Listen to me.”
Children will listen.”
― Stephen Sondheim,
My children listened, and it was lovely to know that they were watching, too…as it happens, I learn which way to turn and what to be by listening to them, too.