Be careful what you ask for, right? I required my 10th graders to give me feedback on their experience with me as their teacher first semester, and initially, my brain only read the negatives.
So, I decided to write down some of the feedback that hurt and some that helps.
A native student who I have tried to pull aside, get to know, ask about his personal life, give the benefit of the doubt, and care about answered “Disagree” to “Ms. Noble understands what I’m going through.”
A Latina student who constantly validates me by nodding her head and giving me dynamite eye contact while I explain something to the class answered “Disagree” to “Ms. Noble teaches me about things that are important.” and to “Ms. Noble explains why we do the things we do.”
A Puerto Rican student, who I taught in a reading support group last year and thought she liked me said to “help people when they ask for it” and marked “Disagree” to Ms. Noble is a good teacher.
A white student, who said to my face “You’re such a bitch” when I said he needed to use a pass to use the restroom, marked all D and SD except for agreeing that my class is too hard, but could only say “IDK” for advice on how I could be a better teacher.
A white male student gave me the advice: “Don’t try to be funny. You try too hard.”
A white student, when asked about a time he felt respected in my class, said: “Everyday when you said hi.”
A black female student commented: “I would change the times I was being disrespectful to Ms. Noble because she is actually nice.”
A white student, who butted heads with me a lot, said she felt respected when “you talked to me about my depression and other times.”
A white student told me, “It’s never personal. Kids just get mad.”
The 50+ students, of all colors, who marked either Agree or Strongly Agree to Ms. Noble is a good teacher.
Talking about Race in the Classroom:
There were only three comments given related to race, and all three were written by white males. They gave me this feedback on how I could be a better teacher:
- “Stop bringing race and controversy into the classroom. This is an English class, not a current events class.”
- “Don’t be biased in your article of the week selections.”
- “Stop talking about your life and don’t bring in your beliefs.”
When I read this, I instantly question if I am bringing up social issues and society too much. But then my same, wise neighbor Emily helped me realize that out of 60 students, if only three had negative feedback for me about it, and they were all white males, they probably sat in quite a bit of discomfort this semester. And when our education system has historically been rooted in traditions that primarily serve white males, I think this is to be expected and that it’s probably okay.
Patterns & Takeaways: I got some really good advice as I processed this out loud with a couple of friends.
- When soliciting feedback, I need to be centered enough to read the results productively.
- When there are comments or rankings that don’t fit with the others, they are outliers. I can look at them, but I can also discard them.
- I need to do a better job of explaining things. I think I can try this by having a student repeat what they heard me say before we break off into groups.
- I might need to make my class harder. Or consider more ways I can differentiate.
- I should continue greeting students at the door, but maybe try to focus on a few each day to really connect with.
- If someone thinks I’m flawed in some way, I can either work on it or recognize that not everyone has to like and accept me.