All Students Are Equal. But Some Students Are More Equal Than Others.

The first time I encountered student evaluations was when I started teaching in New Zealand. And I think they’re great. It means that students can critique their teacher so that we can improve our practise. I’ve been teaching for over two decades and I love the affirmation I get from my students. And of course I pride myself on my approachable and affable demeanour. Don’t forget my valuable feed forward which is delivered in a constructive and positive way.

Imagine my dismay when some of my students had the audacity to critisise me in their evaluation. Granted the harsh critisism was only from two responses, but still! It stung! They said, and I quote, “Miss needs to spend equal time with everyone, not just the loud ones.” Being gregarious myself, do I gravitate to the vocal students? Yes of course I do, for the following reasons:

  1. We work in a digital 1:1 device world. Students do not depend exclusively on teachers. So when students are asking for our input, it affirms our place in the world. It’s a great feeling passing on knowledge, right? Sometimes we do surpass Google.
  2. In our ‘guide on the side‘ role, we want to encourage independent learning, so hovering helicopter teachers are frowned upon. If students don’t need your input, don’t give it.
  3. You can only ask “Do you guys need my help?” so many times. If they are on task and tinkering along, leave them alone.

But, why the comment that I did not give certain students enough encouragement and feed forward? So I came up with a plan and here is my reflection:

Every student has a voice and it needs to be heard. My plan was not technical, it was not complex. In fact it was simple and basic. I simply said to my students that, if they needed my input, they’d need to pop their names onto my whiteboard. I would stick strictly to the list on the board, no wavering to the squeaky wheels. At first I had about five names on the board. The next day the number of names doubled. By day three a colleague walked in and said: ” Wow you’re into double columns now!”.

I think there’s something about the fairness about the system that they liked. A parent contacted me and he reaffirmed what I thought, that the shy individual in the class felt as if he had been heard. Without having to put his hand up and say “Miss, I need your help!” Which, ironically, by adding his name to the board, he was saying. Imagine how exciting it was when I found them lining up to put their names on my board at lunchtime. Before class. I kid you not!


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, phalinn.

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