On Listening

This week, I did a brave thing. I gave my students a survey on our classroom culture and asked for their honest, confidential feedback. Scared out of my mind, I braced myself for the results. And while some of my students’ responses made me cringe – I mean, who wants to hear “I ABSOLUTELY HATE TAKING SO MANY NOTES!!! MY HAND HURTS AND ITS TOO MUCH TO WRITE!!” from one of their students? – I am grateful for their feedback because it helps me learn and grow as an educator.

It doesn’t matter that students in my class take far less notes than other Social Studies classes in the building. It doesn’t matter that I invest some of our instructional time in real-life application projects and team-building exercises that help create a robust, engaging learning environment. At the end of the day, what matters is my students’ perception of our classroom and how it operates every day.

No, I will not make everyone happy all the time. That’s not my job. But part of my job is differentiating content and process and product so that all students’ needs are met and all students are given an opportunity to learn in ways that mean the most to them.

I am still wading through my students’ responses to our class culture survey. I’d be lying if some of their comments haven’t made me cry a little bit. But I can’t grow as an educator if I’m not willing to see my classroom through my students’ eyes. They deserve a teacher who gives a damn about their experience in my classroom, and I owe it to them and to myself to take them seriously.

Doing this requires me to humble myself and admit that I don’t get it right all the time. Doing this empowers me to make changes for the good of our class. Doing this ensures that my students get the best of me every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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P.S. How do you get feedback from your students on their experience in your class? Post your own ideas and expertise in the comments!