Monday, May 22, 2017

Student evaluations

Every year I have my students evaluate me after they have taken their finals.  Here are some of the most common responses this year.

1. Did you feel that I cared about you and your success?  Overwhelmingly, the answer was yes.  There were a very few students that hesitated or said that they weren't sure.

2. If yes, what did I do to show you that I cared?  If no, what could I have done? The answers on this were mainly: you let us know when we had a bad grade and let us turn stuff in late, you asked us about our weekends and seemed interested, you told us about your life.

3. What is the best thing I did in the classroom? This one had a ton of different answers.  But I got a lot of The Stories with Repetition, the Gestures to show when we needed help, The songs at the beginning of the hour...basically everything was said on someone's paper.

4. What is the worst thing I did in the class?  "pop" quizzes, not enough grammar, no vocab sheets.  I really don't know how to handle these because I don't really foresee me changing this next year.  Any thoughts?  I mean, I could poop out a vocab sheet and I have tried to flip the grammar for those students who want it, but it hasn't gone well...

5. What could I do next year to be a better teacher? More stories, teach grammar, more conversations, write words on the board in upper levels, units with specific vocab, more comprehension checks, more repetitions

And that's about it.  I did have like 3 semi-critical ones, but I think those had more to do with personality clashes than about actual pedagogy.  Overall, kids said that my classroom was a fun place where they didn't feel stressed out and they felt like, when they were feeling stressed out because of other classes, I gave them space to de-stress.

I did have one student who was the most complimentary.  This is a student who NEVER volunteered to speak and when she did speak, it was almost a whisper.  She wrote such wonderful things about how much she loved class, even if it didn't show on her face.  So remember, even the kids that you think are miserable could be loving what you're doing.  Don't count them out!

I really recommend doing this at the end of the year if your heart can handle it.  I'm not gonna lie, some of the responses hurt, but you'll never grow if you don't put yourself out there.  And every year, it's the most critical responses that I grow from.

Friday, May 19, 2017

End-of-year reflection

I have four more classes of finals to give, so I'm just sitting around waiting for them to show up.  Perfect time to sit and reflect on the year...

First, I have to admit that I haven't felt great about this second semester.  First semester, I had some crazy virus that made my iron levels go sky high...leading to an extreme exhaustion, which is not great for TPRS.  Second semester, I fell into a depression probably caused by lack of sunshine and  finding out some information about terrible bullying going on between two of my students and I disengaged from my classes for a while.  Then, just when I'm starting to get back into the groove, I had hernia surgery to repair an umbilical hernia from having so many stinking babies.  I tell you all of this because I am a sharer and also to give you hope that it's really true that even bad TPRS is better than no TPRS.

So...really bad year on my part.  BUT, I'm getting some of the best results of my career.  Because I spent almost an entire semester on Personne Spéciale, the kids had a TON of compelling input as they learned about every one of their classmates.  Next year, I'm going to cut out some of the questions from Bryce Hedstrom that didn't work for my classes and am adding a couple of new ones like What is your spirit animal? and What do you want to do before you die?

I may not have done a ton of stories with my classes, but the ones we did do were super interesting.  I had one story that was truly Blaine Ray magic.  We spent so much time building up a back story that we never finished the actual story.  But the kids LOVED it.

Also, having the structures on the Powerpoint and projected each day as we talked about the kids really helped with pronunciation and spelling.  By doing that, I'm seeing almost no Juh swee.  They still make some errors, but way fewer.

I'm not sure why this is, but my Free Write word counts went up this year over-all.  Even kids who have had me for the last four years were writing more and writing better.  I'm not sure why that is except that I started giving them a small grade for making progress on word maybe they had more incentive to try? (and yes, I realize that grades should not be used as the carrot and the stick, but I feel like until our society changes, this is the way it is).

What else?  I won't know everything until I get all of my student evaluations back.  I know that at NTPRS this summer, I need to focus on meeting the needs of my upper level students.  I am finishing my tenth year of teaching levels one and 8th using TPRS exclusively.  So I feel like I do a pretty good job with those students.  Now it's time to figure out how to take that energy and excitement and transfer it to the upper levels where I am supposed to make sure they are prepared for the IB exam and college.  Yuck!

How about you guys?  What's the one thing that you're going to change for next year??