O nce a quarter I ask my students to complete a teacher evaluation. It’s not incredibly lengthy or complicated. It’s twenty straight forward questions where I ask them to evaluate my strengths, areas for improvement, and our classroom policies. It gives them voice in our classroom and over the years it has become one of my favorite activities. I have grown so much professionally through the critique I’ve received from my students.
One of my colleagues noticed that I was sorting through these evaluations at lunch and asked what I was doing. I explained my policy on teacher evaluations and she laughed. She told me that I’d probably only do it this one time, and I’d never do it again. Instead of saying what I was thinking, I instead asked her why she thought it was so funny. She told me that I’d never get anything worthwhile out of it. The students couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say.
My knee jerk reaction was to say something along the lines of being afraid of what you hear, but the problem is so much larger than fear. The lack of student voice in their education is one of the most bizarre paradoxes in our country. We ask so much of students. We ask them to choose their career. We ask them to make educated decisions regarding their college education. We ask them to make good choices about their friends and peers. But we hardly ever ask them to make decisions regarding their education in the K12 world.
I have learned more about myself as a teacher by asking my students to evaluate me than I ever did by being evaluated by my superiors. Students have such a first hand insight and, when given the chance, are eager to articulate what they see. They know what they want. They know what works. Their language isn’t always pedagogical and their tact could use some work, but I can’t reason passing on such pure, unfiltered critique because I may get my feelings hurt. We tell students all the time that critique is designed to improve the quality of the final product, and critique of my skill as a teacher is no exception.
If you have never asked your students to evaluate you as a teacher, I’d challenge you to be vulnerable and ask for it. The risk is so worth the reward, and students feel valued by voicing their opinion. Let’s practice what we preach. Be brave.
For more of Amanda’s thoughts on Teaching, Living, and everything in between check out her blog, Living in the Cracks.