This pile of students’ end-of-term feedback sheets has been on my desk for almost two months now. Every paper has fine varied questions about our course: with a range of answers provided, open-ended, specific, and encouraging a reflective look at the term of learning. As soon as I got them in mid-December, I
flipped read through them thoroughly, with all due care and attention… in the metro, leaving my workplace for 6 weeks of winter holidays, with 85% of my brain activity being focused on something other than feedback sheets. *sorry kids*
Well today I was back in class. Same students for me this term, which is not too typical for our scheduling at the department. And for certain reasons I feel visibly energetic and happy, which is not too typical for me after a 4-hour sleep. I step into the class with a beaming smile and just a touch of a heavy heart of having to hide it from students I haven’t done my holiday teacher homework (not pretending though that they’d care too much). We do holiday time hashtags (laughter happened). We do SMART goal setting (learning and an amazing thoughtful attitude happened). And then, as casually as it does, feedback happened.
I am in the middle of going over the nitty-gritty of the point system we’ve been using, again, when one student raises his hand and says something like: “Can you give me some bonus points for the correction of mistakes on my essays? You always make notes and leave messages for me, but I really never pay any attention and just throw the paper into the waste bin. I’d be motivated to look into your notes.” (Several other students start nodding and expressing agreement. Apparently few of them ever paid attention.)
Bang. Thank you.
“Great idea. We can arrange that.”
I distribute post-it notes and say whatever suggestion or idea for improvement comes to their mind during the class, they can put it down and hand over to me.
But in fact we just start talking about it.
“More grammar, please!” (No surprise here, read this and this. Some variants have been agreed on.)
“Consider updating the spreadsheet with our points more often, please!” (?! No way. Once a month is my smart enough goal here.)
“Give away Teacher’s Pet Essay Award points that you decide on subjectively.” (Wow. I do write personal messages for everyone, sometimes long and detailed, sharing my impressions… It’s good to see they are appreciated and want to be seen as measured quantitatively))
“Let us see a monthly max of points we could score.” (Very logical and doable. I am being honest and tell them I was lazy but will fix it.)
“Let’s introduce bonus points for regular diligence. A student who performs at over 80% of monthly max for all four months gets prize points.” (Here they actually started showing off their mathematical mindsets and suggested intricate scoring schemes involving variables, but I stood my ground by protesting and was mercifully excused for being a language teacher.))
“Teach us idioms and proverbs.” (OK)
“Multiply assignment points for those who approach a task creatively or choose to do it in a more complicated format.” (? Multiplication suggestion is funny and clear, but the criteria for this generosity are not.)
Other, more ordinary and less interesting comments were also made. When I thought we’d really said it all and there was nothing to be added to my lengthy list of their remarks, concerns and proposals, some students handed in those post-its with yet MORE comments (others expressed a wish to keep the stickers in their notebooks in case they’d have some more insights for me). Every possible aspect was mentioned. I was blown away by their willingness to be part of the process, the part that matters and that can/will be heard.
I now have to revisit my own smart goals for these groups. And rack my brains for ways to make most of this actually happen. And keep the open space of our class open for more than this one class, when for certain reasons I feel insanely energetic and happy.
I also hope I have a heart big enough for any amount of bonus points)))
Thanks for reading this. Happy teaching!