Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hurry TEACHERS, before the end of the school year, just ask your students.

About a year ago, I wrote 2 blog posts about the system I used as a classroom teacher to gather some very important feedback and data from my students. 

The Quest for BETTER

Just Ask the Students

I gained valuable insights through this solicited and honest feedback from my students including their perception (REALITY) of their experiences in my classroom.  Both the positive and negative comments provided an opportunity for me to grow as an educator.  It was not a complicated formula.  I felt good about the positive comments providing me encouragement to find more ways to allow students to learn in that particular way. Similarly, the negative comments made me take note and take action.  My goal was to find ways to address what all students liked least.  After all, these are the students who are often bored or not connected with school.  These are the students who we need to reach and provide the best possible learning experience. What kind of educational, learning, and memorable experiences are we creating for our students?

(@burgessdave and @burgess_shelley)

How do you gather feedback about your students' experiences in your classroom each year?  Just ask your students.  Here are 2 easy ways:

1) Use paper or a Google Form and have students respond to the following:

1.    What did you like LEAST about this class?  Be specific.
2.    What did you like BEST about this class?  Be specific.

Analyze patterns and frequency of what the students liked best and least about your class.  What can you do differently?  Reach out to other educators for input.  Start somewhere and act on the “least” list because your students are telling you something.

2) Have students write down 5 words or have them enter into a Google Form to describe how they felt during their time in your class.  Input the words into a word cloud.  What do you see?  Is that what you expected?  What words stand out?  What words would you want students to use to describe your class?  Write down those words and devise a plan to make it happen. (credit @MrMatera via @burgessdave)

Encourage your school, grade level, department, and curriculum area colleagues to do the same, then share and compare your results.  How transparent do you want to be?  Maybe you could blog about your results.  Be proud of the positives and plan to address the negatives.

What are you afraid of?  Even our worst critics are trying to tell us something.  Are we going to ignore our critics and our most important customers (STUDENTS) or are we going to take to heart and act on what our students have to say?  It is all part of our journey to become better educators.  Don’t wait!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day to 2 Awesome Teachers- My Dad and Mom!

Educators are often asked the question; so, "Why did you become a teacher?" Last year during teacher appreciation week, I wrote a blog post recognizing the primary reason why I became a teacher; Mr. Dale Vaughan, my high school history teacher and football coach. (Teacher Appreciation Week.  Have you thanked your favorite teacher(s)? If not, here is a good reason to consider doing so.)  The other most important aspect of why I became a teacher were my Dad and Mom and the opportunities they provided to learn so much through our family travels.  Because it is teacher appreciation day, I want to recognize two amazing teachers in my life; my Dad and Mom.  
(That's me enjoying a bath at a campground.)

Since I can remember, my family took an annual summer vacation.  We never flew to our destination and never stayed in a hotel.  Our vacations consisted of driving to our destinations, pulling a camping trailer, and staying at campgrounds.  This was a very economical way to provide travel opportunities for our family of 6 (and later 7), but nonetheless, a financial sacrifice of my Dad and Mom to save enough money to make each trip a reality.
Every year, we would plan our summer destination, then begin looking at maps and discussing potential routes, destinations, and places to see.  As you can see on the following map, by the time I graduated from high school, I visited 32 states, Canada, and Mexico.
Our travels took us through almost all geographic areas of the United States including mountains, deserts, forests, great lakes, and plains.  I sat in the back seat of the the 1973 Chevy Impala station wagon looking at a map; always wanting to know where we were in relation to the map and in comparison to what I saw out the window of the car.  We traveled across the Rocky, Appalachian, and Sierra Nevada Mountains, to the beaches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, across the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers, and to numerous national parks such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon.  Our travels always included other historical learning opportunities, including the site of the Boston Massacre, Washington D.C., Gettysburg Battlefields, Statue of Liberty, a tour of the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier, and crossing the Golden Gate and Mackinac suspension bridges.

After that brief summary and looking at some of the photos from our travels, you will probably understand where my love for the social studies started.  After high school, becoming a social study teacher was my goal because I wanted to share my passion for history and geography with my students.

Looking back on my travels with my family, these “vacations” were mostly learning experiences and it was my Dad and Mom who instilled in me a love for the social studies.  I will be forever grateful for the financial sacrifices and effort my Dad and Mom made to provide these memorable experiences to me and our family.  They sincerely believed in the following: