On the first day of class, I always like to ask my students some questions just so that I can get a better idea of who they are and what they expect out of the class. It’s a good practice that gets used in a lot of classrooms. Allows the students to see that the teacher will really listen to them and consider what they want. Makes them feel like part of a learning community. But like most great practices, it also tends to get misused. A lot.
Let me explain how it works.
My students will write and write for fifteen minutes about their goals for the class and what they expect out of me as a teacher. Then, I’ll take the well-thought out responses home, and let them marinate in the mess of my book bag for a couple days. About a day before the class is ready to meet again, I’ll look at my bag slumped over in the corner and think, “Hey, wasn’t there something in there I was supposed to read.” On a good day, I’ll remember, “Oh, yeah. Student Feedback. Should check that out.” On a really good day I might even pull out the papers, shuffle through them once or twice, maybe even laugh at one or two of the more creative responses. But actually use the suggestions to design the class? I’ll have every intention to, but inevitably, I’ll get pressed for time because of homework or work work or having to watch that rerun of Family Guy for the sixth time, and I’ll have to think up a lesson real quick. From there it’s off to the races. How am I going to think of a lesson? What information can I fill their heads with today? What do I want them to accomplish today? Me. Me. Me. Moving backwards on a one way street.
Not only did I waste the students’ time in making them answer all of those dumb questions, but I betrayed their trust in allowing them to think that I would actually create a class based around their goals and needs. The mere thought.
But not this year. Not this time. For I am making a new year’s resolution. And I’m putting it on the internet, so it has to be true.
In 2015, I will actually listen to my students.
Proud to say I’m off to a good start. I took some time earlier this week to really read the responses the guys gave me. In the spirit of listening, I want to shut up and share those responses here.
What expectations do you have for us as teachers?
To help with problems
Be able to get us.
To show up.
To make this class fun
To print out lyrics.
Help me research topics.
Help me write better.
Participate and try to understand
What goals do you have for this class?
I will be honest, respectful, and understanding.
Be more lyrical.
I will respect my fellow human beings
I will read at least once per class.
Be a better poet.
I will do my homework every week.
I will share my work more.
To have a book written in a year.
To express myself on the page.
To learn as much as I can.
I will receive and implement suggestions for my writing.
I will work towards being a better writer.
I will write from the heart.
I will try to learn as much as I can.
Write one good story.
To do everything possible.
Pretty manageable on the whole. And well thought out. Now if I could only figure out how to make that last one happen over the course of ten weeks I’d be golden.
-Johnny Caputo, Teacher