I got better.

I’ve always found it difficult to know when I’m doing a good job. Teachers have such a diverse audience in their students and, realistically, parents and administrators. And while we are supposed to advocate for our students, it is not they who evaluate us. Unless you let them, of course, which is why I give out end-of-the-year surveys.

The nice thing about these is that they tell you how you can modify your pedagogy, and by keeping the questions consistent from year to year you can track your progress. I use Google Forms and follow the following guidelines:

  • Book labs /set aside time in the last two periods before exams so that I give students dedicated time – this gives me a pretty high response rate, except for the students who choose to skip class before exams – and if they choose to skip, then their feedback may not what I should listen to anyway.
  • I make it clear that their responses are anonymous and leave the room while they fill out the surveys.
  • I try to keep the questions as consistent as possible from year to year.
  • Most questions are a scale on 1-5 or 1-10 if I want more detail. I include two free-response sections.

This year I improved in 17/20 metrics. Some highlights:

What I did well

93% of students – and 100% of my gifted/talented ones (I had a class that happened to have mostly G/T kids, and while the surveys were anonymous I did ask for the students’ period) – say I’m knowledgeable and well-prepared. Most importantly, perceptions of me being fair and respectful increased by 25% this year, and my approachability increased by 12%, while the number of students who thought I needed to be more lenient decreased by 36% and the number who thought I needed more strict decreased by 27%. Clearly I’m working towards a good balance in my learning environment and impress the students with my instruction.

What I need to work on

In my comments the kids mentioned my sense of humor numerous times, but as a whole I apparently got less funny  – perceptions of my sense of humor went from 85% to 78%:

“last year you were less serious in the class so when I had to get used to the new style of your teaching it was interesting and effective. (even if it did get really annoying sometimes.)”

while ratings of my explanations (of assignments, but my questions may have been ambiguous and respondents may have been referring to content explanations) went from 85% to 81%. Ratings of my willingness to help went from 70% to 66%. The last figure is the most troubling for me. In his inspiring Google Teacher Academy Application videoDavid Theriault talks about being a champion for students, and the downward trend suggests that I have some work to do there. I know why I got that rating – teaching 6/8 blocks, coaching, and keeping time set aside for myself doesn’t leave a whole lot of extracurricular time for me to work with individual students outside of class or devote my entire attention in class.

I’m also too nice; one of my growth points is to become more assertive:

“I think Mr. Kelsey is tooooo nice, not that he should be very mean, he should be in the middle; fun and entertaining when the class is respectful, disappointed and a bit strict when the class is disrespectful”

“Our class had a lot of rowdy boys and sometimes you would allow their “lack of intelligence” ,for the loss of a better phrase, disrupt the class. “

And what you’re going to want to argue with me about

I’m good at lecturing and it works for my kids. It was the highest-rated instructional technique that I used, and 100% of my G/T kids thought it was valuable (vs. 67% agreeing that discussions were valuable). It’s statistics like this that make wary of dismissing direct instruction in favor of the flipped classroom and collaborative learning models – it’s not that the latter aren’t great ways to teach, but I don’t see why I should deny students the choice of learning in a way that clearly appeals to them, since my students say things like this:

“[Mr. Kelsey] allows us to come up with our own conclusions and then we branch off from them as a class to narrow subjects and think more critically.”

“[Mr. Kelsey] makes the lessons very fun and interesting… even the boring chapters. In addition, he gives us a fair amount of independence and guidance.”

So what do we do when our desire to differentiate and give students choice in how they learn conflicts with the cutting edge of educational thought? And lest we consider technology a panacea, consider this:

I probably think that anything that has to do with internet or computer typing should be removed. Because, some students aren’t really the technical type. They work better with a textbook, paper, and pencil.