Cold, Hard Numbers: “Mr Kelsey is a bossman.”

The final section of my year-end evaluation survey yielded a mixed, though mostly positive, mix of student opinions about my class atmosphere.

Mr. Kelsey… % Agree or Strongly Agree (n=84)
Is knowledgeable 90
Is well-prepared 89
Gives clear explanations 85
Has a sense of humor 85
Is interesting 75
Makes students think about history 74
Is fair and respectful 73
Is willing to help 70
Is approachable 70
Connects history to students’ lives 63
Doesn’t let a few students dominate 58
Gives an appropriate amount of homework 56

In theĀ core competencies of a teacher – knowing stuff and explaining it well to students – I receive 85-90% positive reviews. It’s not six-sigma excellence, but I’ll take it.

Let’s examine my poorest competencies, then. Less than two-thirds of my students – 13 of every 20 – thought that I connected history to students’ lives, didn’t let a few students dominate the class, and gave an appropriate amount of homework.

I’m not surprised by the first result – less than two-thirds of students thought that I connected history to students’ lives. My 9th grade class, Ancient World History, is aptly named and often seems like an endless parade of facts. During the first semester I incorporated current events into the class on a daily basis, but it’s hard to sustain that pace – there aren’t always meaningful parallels to be made. I’d like to make compare/contrast a greater emphasis next year, and compare geographical areas across ancient and modern times – for example, comparing the relative power of classical and modern Arab civilizations. To do this, I’ll need to compile my own list of resources for the latter case, but given the Arab population of my school it may be worth the time.

I’m not surprised by the criticism that I let a few students dominate the class – over 40% of my students seemed to think so. One challenge – and responsibility – for teachers is to make every student feel like a valued member of class. Yet it’s hard not to favor the active, engaged students in class discussions. Others have observed that this dynamic in my classes is an outgrowth of the collegial, teasing atmosphere in my classes; teachers with a drier, more academic demeanor might not have this issue. Regardless, next year I will need to more equitably call on quieter students or find an alternate way to engage them in the class.

In the third lowest case, only 56% of students thought that I gave an appropriate amount of homework. Judging from the free-response questions, I don’t think anyone thought I should be giving MORE homework – the relevant free-response questions indicated that my “terms, names, paragraph” homework was too much. I don’t think that my daily homework is too much at all – reading and summarizing a four-five page textbook chapter should be well within the ability of a 9th grader. So this may refer to having too many graded projects and mini-projects. I did pile on the work in the 3rd and 4th quarter, having kids do Prezi timelines, Powerpoints, presentations, and more – it may have been more than needed to assess the kids on their learning. On the other hand, complaining about homework is the province of all teenagers. I plan to revisit this issue when I go over the quarter roadmaps later this summer.

So overall, how did I do as a teacher? I put my students’ free-response answers into Wordle, which creates a visual map of word frequency (pictured above) – the more frequent, the larger the word. I was gratified to see “fun,” “think,” “interesting,” and “humor” featured fairly prominently. “Activities” was also prominent – it’s clear that I’m onto something here, since my in-class activities make an impression. “Homework” is also prevalent as a concern as discussed previously. But the Wordle seems to convey a positive impression of my classes. So let’s conclude this reflection with a few quotes:

Stay the way you are because your classes are great.

[Mr Kelsey] Is lenient and creates a free flowing classroom environment.

I improved a lot throughout the year mainly becasue Mr. Kelsey had a uniformed way of teaching. Once I got the hang of the class it got easier for me. I also think all of the simulations we did in class helped me understand the topic better. However, what helped me the most was all of the in class notes we took. The in class notes was what helped me improve the most I think.

A main reason why this year’s history class was good is because the class is very engaging. We don’t simply take notes on the subject and take assessments, instead we take notes, have discussion, and then ussualy have an entertaining simulation that helps us grasp the information we took… All in all, history this year was a class I would look forward to, the assignments were pretty creative and the simulations were entertaining but still a good way for learning.

[Mr. Kelsey] is a bossman.

YOU are deffinately one of my most interesting teachers in the school year of 2011-2012.

doesn’t have the same routine every class instead he knows how to keep the class interesting, it connects it and relates history to things that we find interesting and things that will catch out attention. Also sometimes we’ll be able to understand something better because of the comparison. he always knows the material perfectly and he has really good strageties, and the class is fun!

Out of all my teachers you were one of my favorites, because you took criticism very well, have a good sense of humor that also matches the maturity of the kids…(thats what she said/ your mom jokes). Although we would be assigned to read, I wouldnt and when you expalined it in class I understood perfectly. Finally, you were able to except my loud and sometimes outrageous personality in class, and I can honestly say that it was a really fun class because we learnt all the material and did it a fun and upbeat way.

Does his best to make the clas interesting and fun. He knows when he should and shouldn’t be strict.

I’ll need more time to process these and come up with a specific set of goals for next year, but cursory thought yields the following conclusions:

  1. Technology: Develop Moodle and Starboard into mature classroom organization and presentation tools. Use Google Docs, Prezi and other collaborative tools on a regular basis.
  2. Teaching Practices: Make discussions and debates a weekly part of class, while focusing on basic reading and writing skills to make textbook reading more useful for students. Use iClicker quizzes to support reading comprehension. Increase use of current events in the curriculum.
  3. Classroom Atmosphere: Try not to play favorites so much while maintaining the “free flowing,” “fun,” “engaging,” and “outrageous” classroom atmosphere.

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