Skip to main content

Do I Really Wanna Know

As my school year winds down, I try to take a little time to reflect on my year. I try to do this while things are still fresh. Things are so fresh in fact, I still have another week and a half left in school. While this time of year is crazy and so many kids are checked out, i thought it might be nice to get feedback from students on all of the changes i have made this year. Of course when I think of all the work I've put into those changes, the natural question becomes "do I really want to know students opinions?" The natural answer all of us are taught to say is yes, of course we want feedback from all stakeholders and students should have a say in their education. Of course that sounds good in theory, but in practice, it can be much harder. Realistically, it is hard not to take it personally when a kid says they don't like the system you set up.

I wouldn't want to gather data as a show of valuing student opinions while they feel pressure to compliment me, so I have to be careful in the formatting to make it safe for kids to be honest if I want true insights. I decided to set ego aside and give students a chance to say what they really think and offer suggestions for improvement. Since this is the championship round of my Arts Madness tournament, I have a captive audience. I decided to add half a dozen optional questions to this week's Google form. Before students could scan the QR code to get to this week's matchup, I explained that I added optional questions so they could give me anonymous feedback. To set the tone, I explained that while they can say what they want with no repercussions, I would like them to be clear and concrete in their suggestions. The example I give is "you might say 'I prefer silent videos instead of the ones where you narrate the instructions' instead of 'I dont like your voice' because while I can empathize- I mean nobody is more disappointed by my voice than I am, it's not really something I can change so we all just have to suffer through that one together." That gets the kids laughing but also understanding what kind of feedback would be appropriate and constructive.

So far as the data are coming in, I have been very happy. About 95% of the class seems to like the changes I have made and the majority of them are strongly favorable to them. While I would like to see 100% approval of what I am doing, I think it is important to realize that pretty much nothing appeals to 100% of children (except perhaps my one student's suggestion that I could improve art class by feeding them candy; I wont be doing it but I bet all the kids would be on board with such a plan) so a rating that high would really mean that somebody is lieing.  While I cannot please everybody, I do seem to be getting favorable ratings from the vast majority of students and a number of students seem to be offering feedback along the same lines that I was thinking. A fair number of the suggestions for improvement centered around organization of materials. I admit I am a slob. I try to keep things tidy but I cannot seem to keep up with the messes kids make. I need to get a good organization system started and hold students accountable to maintain order. The other thing a number of students said was that they want to have occasional interruptions to the self directed learning for more guided practice. Of course they didn't put it in those terms, but they said they wanted to pause the game occasionally and have me lead the class in projects showing while kids love choice and freedom, they really do want structure too.

As I plan ahead to next year, I think my ultimate challenge will be figuring out the right way to balance those needs. I think one of the main things to keep in mind is that freedom and limitations are not really antithetical. The key is to find the structure that maximizes choice and support/guidance. Currently I am debating whether it is better to have a rotating schedule of weeks that are student led and weeks that are teacher directed or if it would be better to keep the class mostly student led, but set up a station in the room where I would lead a workshop activity so students could choose to have the teacher directed format any day they feel the need for more guidance.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My First Post!

Welcome to my elementary art blog. I will be posting various lesson plans and resources used for teaching k-5 Art. Check back regularly as I intend to update this weekly with videos and other resources that help in my classroom and they can help in yours too.

One thing that has been transformative in my teaching is video demonstrations of key skills. I started making videos after coming to the realization that when I did a live demonstration of clay or origami, half the class could not actually see what I was doing. By recording video, I could project it larger so kids could see better, but I also found that it freed me up to focus on my students and my instruction better. I no longer had to worry about the creation of a sample project, I could simply focus on the explanation while also looking at my students to find signs of confusion, anticipate problems etc. If you have not flipped your art room, I highly recommend it.

In addition to the relative ease of direct instruction, creatin…

School's Out- Time to Second Guess Plans for Next Year

This time of year is always a little bitter sweet. It is of course nice to go on to a long summer break, but as I pack up my classroom, I cannot help but start planning for next year. The most immediate concern is the supplies. I have been teaching for 11 years now, and every year I seem to struggle more with my supply order. For one, I always worry that I will forget some basic supply and start the year without paper or something like that, but also, it seems like every year I feel like I blow through my budget faster and faster. The irony of this is of course that every year, I have more money to work with. I am incredibly fortunate to have a generous budget from my school, a generous allowance from my parents organization and a healthy supplement to my budget thanks to Square 1 Art. If you don't use Square 1 Art, I highly recommend it. I had always stayed away from fundraisers because I am in a very privileged position and it felt greedy to ask for more, but Square 1 has been g…

Big Change for 2019

For quite a while, I have read about TAB and choice based art ed. There is a lot that appeals to me with the theory but I have never seen a structure that I felt would work for me in my classroom. In the weeks leading up to winter break, I started thinking more and more about gamifying the classroom. I decided to take the plunge and so now my 1st-5th grade students will have a range of choices but with clear structures and support to make it manageable.
I decided to utilize Google slides as a means of managing the game. It is free and a slide deck can provide secure, personalized communication between me and the students. I started by setting up a template. My slide deck has the rules of the game, a slide to track badges they earn and then numerous slides of challenges students can complete in order to earn a badge. The beauty is that since slides can have links, my challenge slides can have the learning targets then a picture of a sample project that would hit the targets. I make th…