Archive for December, 2013

When to evaluate

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Evaluation

I was lucky enough to be able to hear Wayne Hulley speak a few times in the past. I even co-organized an event in my school board where he gave a one-day conference on one of our Professional development days a few years ago. Mr. Hulley has been a role model for me. One of his ideas keeps inspiring me as I grow as an educator.

As I was speaking with an amazing teacher new in her career, I shared Mr. Hulley’s vision with her. Teachers often know when to evaluate. They start off with some diagnostic evaluations, followed by some formative evaluations and some great summative evaluation tasks at the end of units. That’s the way the system works. And I asked her the same question Mr. Hulley asked of us. Before you give an evaluation to students, do you know if some of them will fail or do poorly? She said yes. Then next question is: why would you give the evaluation knowing that some students will fail them?

You see, we come from a traditional education system where it is always the student’s responsibility. He or she must adapt to the system and the teacher. What if we actually shared that responsibility? Is teaching the entire curriculum more important than what the students learn and master? When we actually change our way of thinking as educators, we can help students develop their thinking. Our education system must encourage collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. They are the path to a successful future, and we, as teachers, play an integral part in the learning process.

Don’t evaluate because you have to. Evaluate because you have taught, you have learned, they have learned and your evaluation will benefit them as students and life-long learners.

 

There have been many articles published about how to motivate and engage students. There are a wide variety of strategies that can be effective, including: using more of your students’ technology, creating authentic evaluation tasks, classroom design and even blogs or social media. Although these strategies have their merit and I will elaborate on each of them on later posts, there is one important action that must be taken by every educator in order to engage and motivate your students in the classroom.
Get to know your students.

My reflexion has been inspired by a father-daughter moment today. I took her to watch her first hockey game at a local arena. The twist: we went to watch one of my students play and not even one that I am teaching. You see, I place great value and importance on getting to know students at my school. I believe that this is the true cornerstone of having any kind of impact on students or increasing engagement in the classroom. Earlier in the year, I remember telling this student that he should tell me when he has his next game or tournament at the local arena and I would try to make it out. Yesterday I got the message that he was playing on the weekend. So I decided to take my daughter to her first game and be there to watch him play hockey. How appreciative he was of this action, I don’t think I will ever know, and to be honest it’s not even that important.

I have taken such opportunities in the past; gone to a soccer game, participated in fundraisers, but most of my time is spent getting to know students. I talk with them, chat with them and spend many hours daily exchanging conversations about their likes, dislikes, passions, problems and family. I believe this is the foundation of any relationship. If I want to engage my students in my classroom, I need to know who they are. Many teachers tell me that they don’t want to know who their students are in a relationship with, what they did on the weekend, what they think about their house rules. I see this as important because I will never set limits on my friends or family and only be willing to get to know them on one level.

If I want students to trust me and be willing to make mistakes, to complete assignments I’ve created, to participate in my wacky classes, I need them to feel like they are a part of my life, more importantly, they must be part of my life.  I have had much success with this and I feel truly blessed. To my own credit, it never stops with graduation. I keep in contact with my students even after they leave, if they want to stay in contact. Relationships are built to last and are built to be successful. Relationships are key to making a class work. When I truly care about them, I truly want them to succeed and will work hard at it.

So as I participated in today’s event, it highlighted my belief: incorporate your students into your lives. You may think that this is crossing the professional/personal boundary. Incorrect. You are viewing your students as people, people who you respect, care for and want to be successful. Take the time to get to know your students: the benefits are endless, surprising and fulfilling.

And to all those students who have let me be a part of their lives. Thank you for your trust and your honesty. Most of all, thank you for teaching me how to be a better person and a better teacher.