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How My Ninth-Grade English Class Evaluated Me This Semester

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Last week was the end of our first semester and, as always, I had my students evaluate the class and me. I’ve previously posted about the results from my ESL class and from my IB Theory of Knowledge class (you might also be interested in The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)).

Here’s the evaluation form I use.

This double-block class is always my most challenging, and always the one where I improve the most as a teacher year and after year.

I list each question, followed by the results, ending with a short commentary:

1. In this class, I learned…. some a lot a little

I always consider this the most important question, and was pleased to see that ninety percent circled “a lot.”

We have a great curriculum, I do a lot of the life skills lessons found in my books, and I work very, very hard. I’m glad to see that it seems to be paying-off.

2. I tried my best in this class….a lot of the time all the time some of the time

One half said “all the time,” a little more than one-quarter said “a lot of the time,” and a little less than one-quarter said “some of the time.”

I wish it was more than one-half saying “all of the time” but, to tell the truth, I’m okay with this percentage by the end of the first semester. The second semester is when I do the life-skills lessons in my upcoming book, and I think that this percentage should go up considerably sooner. I will not be happy if I get these same results in June.

3. My favorite unit was…. New Orleans Natural Disasters Latin Studies

Three-fourths chose Natural Disasters and one-fourth picked New Orleans.

This is a typical result, even though my classes always have a large percentage of Latino students.

4. My least favorite unit was …. New Orleans Natural Disasters Latin Studies

Three-fourths chose Latin Studies and one-fourth chose New Orleans — again, a typical result.

5. As a teacher, I think Mr. Ferlazzo is… okay good excellent bad

One-half said I was good, one-fourth said I was excellent, one-eighth said I was okay, and one-eighth said I was bad.

I’m okay with those results.

6. Did you feel that Mr. Ferlazzo was concerned about what was happening in your life? yes no

Three-fourths said yes and one-fourth said no.

Here again, I’m okay with those results.

7. Mr. Ferlazzo is patient…. some of the time a lot of the time all of the time

Half said “some of the time” and half said “a lot of the time.”

It’s a challenging class — I’ll take it.

8. Did you like this class? Yes No

Half said yes and half said no.

This is typical at the end of the first semester when we’re just finishing the unit that is typically the least popular of the entire year — Latin Studies. By the end of the year I’m confident it will be a 70% yes and 30% no — we have some pretty interesting units coming up.

9. Would you want to take another class taught by Mr. Ferlazzo? Yes No

Fifty percent said yes and fifty percent said no.

This was the biggest surprise for me. Even at this point in the year, the yes percentage is usually higher and grows to June. I’ve got a fair number of students who are not generally positive about anything related to school, so that might have some influence here. However, I don’t want to dismiss it either. It’s a little puzzling — Ninety percent said they learned a lot, and two-thirds said I was either a good or excellent teacher, yet half would not want to have me as a teacher again. Do readers have any thoughts on this difference?

10. What was your favorite activity in this class?
Practice Reading Data Sets Make-and-Breaks Read Alouds Clozes
Writing essays Working in groups

It was a three way tie between working in groups, data sets (inductive learning, which is typically done in groups), and clozes.

No big surprises here, except that “practice reading” (reading for pleasure) usually is near the top, but not this year so far.

11. What could you have done to make this class a better learning experience?

Talk less

Get a different teacher

Help others

Not get mad at Mr. Ferlazzo sometimes.

Pay attention

Do what Mr. Ferlazzo tells me to do.

Be more patient.

12. What could Mr. Ferlazzo have done to make this class a better learning experience

Give less work.

Help more.

Make it more fun.

Let us listen to music

I think they have something with the “make it more fun” comment. There are easy ways for me to add a little more of that into the class. Sometimes I get so focused on covering the material and on classroom management issues that I miss some opportunities for fun.

Your comments are welcome….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

5 Comments

  1. I teach at a university where such student evaluations are commonplace. It is not uncommon to see responses such as yours where some students respond at one end of the scale, and others at the opposite end. It sounds like you’re already familiar with, and accepting of this as well. While there is often something positive to be gained by these evaluations (as in the suggestion from your students to make class more fun), I am not, nor are many of my colleagues, convinced that students are largely capable of an accurate assessment of a course or an instructor. This makes sense, of course, by the very fact that they are not authorities on the course subject matter, pedagogy, or even necessarily interested in having to be in school at all. We struggle with these conflicts at the university level where, more and more, students are viewed by administration as consumers or customers, and where “the customer is always right”. If student evaluations are not the norm in your high school system, I would be very careful to avoid encouraging the practice.

  2. I sympathize with Mr. Webb’s comment. As the coordinator of studies and instruction for a high school, I found that many teachers resisted evaluation. They distrusted the students whom they felt used the assessments as opportunities to retaliate for poor grades or worse as means to get individual teachers fired. Hearing their complaints, I came to recognize that the real problem was communication. We, as educators, had not taught students the value of understanding themselves as learners and the role a teacher could play in assisting that learning.

    I began by asking the teachers if they’d like to scrap evaluations altogether. Although at first they seemed to welcome that suggestion, they gradually began questioning what kind of message that would send the students. We moved then to an outline of the pros and cons of teacher evaluations. We acknowledged what we feared (the truths that the students might reveal to us as well as the falsehoods that we felt were unfair), but we also imagined what we might learn (how to guide our students to become better learners.)

    In the end, each discipline worked together to create an evaluation that they felt was fair and complete. Each began by asking students first to evaluate themselves, asking questions about whether they liked learning, worked to their potential, and completed assignments fully and on time. We felt this process of metacognition would help students reflect on who they are as learners before they judged us as teachers. We then asked the students to answer a series of questions about the course itself. We wanted them to reflect on their interest in this specific discipline and whether it was particularly difficult for them. Lastly, we asked the students to evaluate the teacher, his or her dedication, knowledge, and professionalism.

    We also, most importantly, talked to the students about the purpose of these evaluations. We explained that they did not serve as an indictment to fire a teacher. Rather, they helped develop a narrative for the teacher to better understand his or her effectiveness in guiding students to become stronger learners.

    Contrary to Mr. Webb’s experience, we discovered that the students offered courteous yet honest reflections about themselves, the school subjects they were learning, and our effectiveness as their teachers.

  3. Hey Larry,

    sounds like you challenge them. At that age I think many students (perhaps many of your surprise 50%?) who may not be intrinsically turned on by your subject might be feeling a bit tired by the end of sem and were really just reporting on feeling tired from all the learning you helped them do! ie “next sem I would rather have a cruise control teacher”…

  4. Thanks for sharing, those are interesting answers from your students and thoughtful reflections on your part. I cross posted your blog post to the ASCD Forum group (http://groups.ascd.org/groups/detail/141997/ascd-forum/) where we are currently discussing teacher and principal effectivness.

  5. Pingback: Teacher: How my 9th graders graded me

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