My virtual teaching space this year...
Friday was the end of 2nd quarter for my 9th and 10th grade Environmental Science classes, and, as per usual, I gave out an end-of-term (anonymous) survey. I love these surveys - I still have the original copies from my first year of teaching! I like to re-read them from time-to-time and remember the inside jokes, the stories from those years, etc. I love these surveys because I find them so funny, sweet, heartwarming, and helpful. I am always trying to be a better educator, and the surveys have truly helped me over the years to spot (and break) bad habits and patterns as well as to learn more about my students' learning styles and preferences, and make adjustments accordingly.
Usually, there are commonalities across class groups, grade levels, years taught, seasons even, and more. For example, my middle school students often tell me, in these surveys, that I am not very patient and that I am "scary" when I get mad. But, they continue, other than that I am "cool," "funny," and "nice." This always makes me both laugh and reflect. It is true that as a middle school teacher I am on the strict side. I tell them "No" when the answer is "No" and I do not let them scream about the room like flying monkeys. So, these sorts of comments have come to be very familiar to me. And yet, I do not want to be "scary" and I definitely do not want to be viewed as not being patient enough. Let's just say I have really been working on this...
However, this year, with my first foray into high school teaching, I was amazed to read many comments saying how I have "endless patience," and am "super chill." I would have never thought of myself as a "chill" teacher, but I have always admired colleagues I view as "chill," and therefore I take this as a huge compliment! I thought it might be a one-off, but there were at least four comments in two different classes saying the same thing, so perhaps I am more patient with high schoolers? Who knew?!
Anyway, the surveys I gave out this term were especially sweet and totally warmed my heart. In this virtual situation the students have been in, I often do not feel like I am the best teacher ever, but to get such amazing feedback has fortified me and boosted my confidence.
So, without further ado, here are a few of the highlights:
Question: What was the best aspect of Ms. Brown's teaching style? Virtual vs. In-person comparisons can also be made...
(Grade 10) I liked the enthusiasm she always has when she’s teaching no matter for virtual or in person I also enjoy the fact that she made us work with her hands and make a class that I wasn’t interested in to an interesting class. (Awww!!)
(Grade 10) She is always so helpful and chill in lessons never loses her temper. (Never??!?!?!)
(Grade 9) he best aspect of your teaching methods is the reviews that you always give us for test. they always help me understand the topic more deeply. i also really enjoy all the worksheets that you give us in class. i really like how you are really organized even when working from home. (I'm organized? Wow!)
Ms Brown is always positive and can make learning very fun, so its more enjoyable and easier to learn and she also shows a lot of empathy. The classes are never boring. (OMG melt me, so sweet!)
(Grade 10) The best aspect was her energy and excitement during each lesson, both online and in person, as I felt like that energy was then transmitted to me. (This makes me feel like a wizard!)
(Grade 9) My favourite aspect of Ms. Brown's teaching is definitely her variety of teaching methods. She is one of the only teachers that give so many different types of assignments. I believe teaching like this also results in learning more and being more interested in what one learns. (This is so well-written it seems like the parent wrote it - bravo/a!)
(Grade 10) Ms. Brown's patience level is unbeatable. It is something so positive towards us students, having the chance to get the work we weren't able to do done, and still being able to get a valuation. Also sometimes we might just not get something and no matter how many times we ask she has no problem answering. (What is this weird patience trend?!?!)
(Grade 10) She was very dynamic and exciting. We only had two or three in-person classes, but she was very fun in all of our classes. Even when we were learning about the Tiktaalik, my least favorite subject, I particularly enjoyed it because of her enthusiasm. (Dynamic! Wow!)
Ok, so those were some of the highlights of the things they liked...what about the criticisms?
Question: What aspect of Ms. Brown's teaching style worked the LEAST for you, or did you not like, and why?
(Grade 10) Online lessons... it wasn't her fault but I just struggle with online lessons. (This is a themed complaint...)
(Grade 9) To be honest, I feel like nothing stood out. Maybe choose some different videos to watch because some are.... lets just say weird (So...you don't like my Flocabulary selections? LOL)
(Grade 9) Sometimes the powerpoints (online) were too long (at the beginning of the quarter) and a little bit fast (to take notes). (This is true, I have a tendency to go way too fast during presentations, because it is my least-favorite way to teach).
(Grade 10) Sometimes she explains too fast (True... Sigh. I will work on it.)
(Grade 9 ) I didn't like the Rock lab we did at the beginning of the class because honestly I didn't learn anything, maybe it is because I searched most of the things on internet and I didn't pay attention to the answers I wrote, but yes this asssignement didn't work for me (Fair enough!)
(Grade 10) I think we had a wonderful experience of this subject online but when we came to school I would enjoyed the debate in class when people could share what they knew already (I LOVE this suggestion! What a great idea!)
(Grade 10) Well, I would’ve preferred having more classes in person, but other than that a lot of her methods were efficient. (Efficient, eh?)
Now, I also ask questions about my students to see what sorts of things I should seek out for the next term. I use several questions for this goal, but here is my favorite:
Question: What is something you really wish Ms. Brown knew about you?
(Grade 9) I really enjoys taking notes even though sometimes in online learning I need to ask you to record the lesson so I can take notes in my own time. I really like the way you give handouts and how we are always very hands-on in your class. (I was surprised by this one!)
(Grade 10) I don’t know if you know this or not but I am dyslexic and I’ve never really had a good final grade in science because I was never good at it but I think environmental science is the first class what I’m actually getting good grades and I understanding (Aww I am so pleased!)
(Grade 10) One thing I would like to share is that I generally don't like group projects, because I often feel like the work is not divided equally and oftentimes one person ends up doing most of the work. However, during environmental science I really enjoyed the group projects we did. (Yay!)
(Grade 9) I really like learning by doing physical hands on things (Me too, kiddo, me too.)
(Grade 10) I think Ms. Brown teaches the way I like teachers to teach. I love taking lots of notes, I think I learn best that way, and she made a topic I had no interest in in the beginning of the year, one of my favorites by the end of the term. (Ok this doesn't really answer the question, but it is so dang sweet I will take it!)
(Grade 10) The amount of stuff I do after school, everyday I get home at seven (Aww poor thing, I wish I had known this, too. Welp.)
(Grade 10) I wish that Ms. Brown knew that I am a slow learner, and if she took more of her time on certain things I would've understood the topics just a little bit better, and a little bit can go a long way. (This is really good advice... I will reflect on this.)
"What about the other questions?" You may be wondering.
Well, they are mostly content-specific (favorite/least favorite topic, activity, etc.) So, for the purposes of this post, I think they are skippable. However, I was surprised to find that every topic I taught had at least one student citing it as his or her favorite- never would have imagined that!
In the end, I found these comments to be a much-needed confidence booster as well as immensely helpful for my teaching practice. After all, this is my first year teaching high school Environmental Science, and feedback like this helps me feel like I am more than hacking it. I love my sweet students ❤️