A few years ago I came across these posts by Matt Vaudrey on teacher report cards: paper form and google form. It took me three years to work up the courage to do this myself. Part of the reason for my reluctance is that I recently started teaching in a hybrid/rotational station format. Many of my students still struggle with this. They have had 8-10 years of traditional lecture/practice/repeat style math classes, so this is a big change for them. The model places a lot of responsibility on the students. So much so that I have actually modified the theoretical model recommended by PAHLI to add in a little whole class lecture.
Just so you can appreciate my routine, I'll describe a typical lesson. First, we start with very traditional whole group instruction that involves lecture and practice on a new skill. Some students say this is their favorite part of the lesson because they are comfortable with this traditional approach. Then students split into 3 groups and rotate through 3 stations. The first station is the independent station. Here, students work individually on a laptop. Sometimes I use EDpuzzle to deliver new content via a video lesson, other times students practice a skill that they learned previously using Khan Academy. Some students tell me that this is their favorite station because they can work at their own pace. They can work ahead or repeat lessons if they did not understand the first time through. Next, students go to the direct station. This is small group instruction with me. Sometimes we practice on mini-whiteboards, sometimes we use dry-erase sleeves, and sometimes we work on a project. Some students tell me this is their favorite station because they get very personalized attention from me. Finally, students go to the collaborative station. Here they are assigned a group of 2-4 to complete an assignment. Sometimes this is game based practice. Other times it is a project. Some students say that this is their favorite station because they like to learn by working with their peers.
Just as most students have one station that is their favorite, those same students seem to dislike their non-preferred just as passionately. The most common feedback that I get from students is _______ station is great, we should just do that all the time and skip the other stations.
Anyway, I finally worked up the courage to use the teacher report card during the last day of classes before midterm exams. I did not require my students to complete the report card, but 70 out of my 94 students did. Here are the results that I got.
"I think that Mrs. Abel respects each student."
"I think that Mrs. Abel does a good job of treating all students the same."
"I think that Mrs. Abel keeps the class under control without being too tough."
I was not surprised to find that these were my strongest areas. I have been working on creating a respectful environment for a few years (respect from teacher to student and between students). In the past, I have been a little too sarcastic at times, so I'm glad to see that my efforts have paid off here.
"I think that Mrs. Abel makes me feel important."
"I think that Mrs. Abel shows interest in students' lives."
"I think that Mrs. Abel has a good pace (not too fast or too slow)."
The first two categories are areas that I have always had a weakness in. I've often focused on remaining on task and having good classroom management to make the best of our instructional time. This comes at a cost of relationship building. I definitely want to focus more on building a feel good classroom.
The last one (poor pacing) is a result of my moving too quickly. I feel stuck with how I can slow down because my curriculum is so jam packed. For example, last year, I told our lead teacher that I was planning on skipping the last unit in our algebra 2 class (logic). I told her that my students could be very strong in working with logarithms/exponentials and sequences/series while receiving no exposure to logic OR my students could be exposed to all 3 topics but master none. She said that skipping content was not an option. So I crammed in the extra unit and skipped all review for the final exam. It was a stressful end of the year for me and my students, and I knew that I was not doing what was best for students, but I was doing as I was told to do. I think that I will be in a better place this year, since I am teaching the course for a second time, but the class is still very content heavy. I'm definitely open to suggestions on how you cover the curriculum while still allowing students to learn the material deeply. This is something that I don't have a good solution for yet.
So here is my goal for the second half of the year: get to know my students better in a personal level and let them get to know me too.