Over my teaching career, I have had a lot of observers. Administrators, teachers from my campus, teachers from other campuses, college student observers, Central Office administrators. On Friday, I had the most important observer I've ever had.
My 12 year old daughter Leslie.
She woke up with a migraine, and since neither her mother or I could really miss that day, we decided she could come to my class since it had low lights, and see if that could help. Fortunately, it did, and before long, Leslie felt well enough that I made a suggestion- why don't you take notes on the classes, and tell me what you think.
Boy, did she.
For each class, she made observations on student engagement, student behavior, and measured student understanding. Throughout the blog, I will post pictures of her notes- with class designates removed. Since most of these notes were about the students, I wanted to take the chance with this blog to get her thoughts on me as a teacher, and the classroom environment and culture as a whole. Here are the responses:
Me: Alright Leslie, let's start- what where your thoughts on the physical design of the classroom- seating, lights, smells, and stuff?
Leslie: I think that it can make kids feel more at home like with the couches and the comfy chairs, rather than in a classroom with desks and regular chairs. I think that flexible seating helps students focus because the pick where they sit so they can see better and hear better. I like it better because after a little bit you can get sore and lose focus because it's an uncomfortable seat.
Me: OK, so you also saw the Coffee Talk- our student led discussion. What did you think about that?
Leslie: I think that it's a smart idea to let the kids recap what they have already learned about, then tell the other kids to tell the leader something they like about them.
Me: Why is it important to let the students recap, instead of just doing review questions that people do individually, like in regular bell work?
Leslie: I think that it's better than bell work because you can say what you want to say with more emotion rather than writing it on paper.
Me: We are also doing the positive "Say something nice" version. Did this work, and why do you think it is important to tell each other nice things about each other?
Leslie: I think it is important because it can help people feel confident in them self and i do think it works very well.
Me: You saw classes of debate and Psychology- did you think the students and I connected well regarding the lessons- did they understand what they were supposed to?
Leslie: I saw that y'all understood what each other were trying to say, and the way you worded your questions helped the students understand what you were asking.
Me: Would you say the students had a lot of say in what and how they learned, or did I just tell them?
Leslie: I think they had it in control and you just help move the conversation along and keep them on track.
Me. Alright, so here is the toughest thing I am going to ask you- as a teacher- how did I do? Also, what did I do that you DID like, and what did I do that you DID NOT like? Be honest!
Leslie: You did a good job as a teacher, I would definitely want to have you as one of my teachers. I liked how you would try to get to everyone who had their hand up and then try to get to people who didn't have their hand up. Maybe something you could work on is trying something like a hand motion or chant to get the students attention.
Me: In your opinion- what makes a class a good class to be in? If you could tell your teacher 3 things that would help you learn more effectively, what would they be?
Leslie: The 3 things to help me learn more effectively would be flexible seating because I like pick where I can sit so I can be more focused, the second thing is the teacher being able to laugh with the students about something they said or did or anything like that, and the third thing is making the class laugh at a story that happened to them or in their lives or at a video or something like that. Something that would make a class a good class to be in would be to let the kids tell the class (if they want to) about something that happened to them whether it be something good or bad.
I believe strongly in the power of student voice- even when the student is my own child. I must admit, I was a bit nervous asking her to share- I had no idea whether or not she'd like my class or me as a teacher.
But that isn't the point, anyway. The biggest point to make here is this- students of any age can and should have a voice in how their classes work. That is student voice, that is student empowerment.
I teach Psychology, Sociology, World History Honors and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team, sponsor the TED Ed Club, and I am the Lead Innovator for LEADS CSISD (A student leadership empowerment program for 5th-8th graders). I am an aspiring administrator.