Feb 01

Change is Hard

Happy New Year!!So I am continuing to survey my students. It’s our midterm and halfway through our school year so I wanted to check in and see how they’re all doing. After the positive exit slip experience I had last week I thought this week’s survey would be cool. It was cool but not so easy to read. I made this one include kids’ names to see who said what, who needed what, and to avoid silliness. What I got was some no holds barred feedback, which is great considering I can see who is saying it. That tells me that there is a high level of trust and that is great.

I asked three basic questions after having students rate themselves in addition to leaving it open for anything they wanted to tell me. Here are the main questions:
1. How is Science going for you this year?
2. Rate how well you’ve been learning Science so far this year?
3. What has been happening in Science that is helping you learn?

Here are the results of how the students, 6th and 8th, rated themselves:

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 4.07.20 PM
I thought this was pretty good. At least there weren’t any 1’s or 2’s, and a majority of 8’s is great.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 4.07.36 PM
So a 1 means they have not been learning much Science so far this year. Getting any 2’s, 3’s and 4’s wasn’t good but at least the majority are on the end where they feel they are learning a lot of Science so far.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 4.08.34 PM
Looking at the first question and first graph above and comparing it to this one (the one in red) makes the results above (the blue and orange graphs) quite good. Seeing how most of my students don’t rate themselves as Science geeks it’s great that they are enjoying Science and learning this year. I find that one of the best things I do to prepare kids for high school Science is to get to enjoy Science and to love learning Science. That way they’ll believe they can do Science even if they’re not Science geeks.

So in order to get into why kids rated the above questions the way they did I provided them the opportunity to explain their ratings. Here are some examples of what kids wrote.

“Um the blogging because it helps you re-write the info you learn it helps you get it stuck in your brain!!!”

“its really fun because you can use computers and ipads.”

“I am doing my best on the posts but I can’t write to much or my fingers will stiffen.”

The above are the kinds of responses I got from kids who rated their time in my class and their learning in my class highly.

“i have trouble blogging while every one is chatting their head,shoulders, knees and toes off! easy solution:move guild….not going to work! every one has theyre mouths dancing! i dont have much time to do blogs at home either because of sports and that stuff.”

“Most of the time i am distracted from other people or not paying attention to what is going on in the front of the class room. Also i am not caught up on a lot of blog assignments that Mr.G wants us to do.”

“I dont always pay attention I get destracted easy but I do pay attention some times”

These responses give me some insight into what I observe so it’s nice to know that kids are honest and aware.

“Because Mr.Gonzales teaches us in a way that other teachers don’t. He doesn’t grade us, or let us fail. He teaches us to learn from our mistakes and do it differently next time instead of letting us fail.”

“The fact that I have my blog is great because my peers can tell me what to do next time. I also like playing video games that relate to science is great because I’ll actually pay attention to it and it’s fun.”

“Because I like science as a general. Mr. Gonzalez is my favorite teacher. I don’t like letter grades, so the system is perfect for me. It seems like we are making much more progress then previous science classes I have been involved in.”

These types of responses help because I find that going gradeless and having my students blog to reflect and keep track of their learning in my classes a technique that I plan to continue using. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m liked by some of my students. 🙂

“I gave it a 3 because it’s not that fun and it’s pretty boring. Also sometimes it’s confusing and not explained well.”

This one stings. Luckily I’m not creating a negative experience for too many kids as this type of response was rare. We can’t please all of the people all of the time and my style isn’t for everyone. At least I know that when I do provide something fun this student will have a better experience. As for explaining, I will strive to do better unless I’m leading my students to discover things for themselves.

“Because I think it’s cool that we can use technology and I like that we have no grades in this class and the labs we do are kind of fun.”

Many students like using technology so I got a bunch of responses like the above one.

“i dont like some of the projects were doing”

“It is going ok I don’t really like some stuff we are doing in here”

Some of these types of responses came during an activity that some don’t like because it required looking up answers to questions that aren’t all so easily Googled (and yes, I did have them search Google for the answers). I probably would’ve gotten fewer of those had this happened right after a lab.

“The fact that you show pictures and try to make it easy to understand is very helpful, but something’s are hard to grasp because you sometimes jump topics and it’s not hard to get lost in what your saying.”
and
“Talk slower. And try not to use big words, if using big words, please describe the word.”

This was helpful. Something I have to work on. Talking slow is hard for me.

“Again Idk it’s just kinda not what I wanna learn. I don’t really care about what we are learning I think I’d rather be in a different class.”

“Idk I don’t like the structure of this class. I really liked my science class last year though. I think I would like this class if it was less electronicky. Idk what exactly I wanted this year. I just feel unfocused in this class.”

“So far science hasn’t been that hard, or interesting. I look forward to doing genetics, again. I really should have been in a new type of science, like mineral or whatever other classes there are, or put in a ninth grade life science class, putting me ahead of where I am now. I don’t like review, and with so many of my classes being pure review, it would be nicer if I could help myself educationally and avoid being that ONE kid who already knows all the material, as I am in math and language arts.”

It’s hard when I get students who transfer from another school and already had the subject I’m teaching. My middle school is opposite of our neighboring schools because we teach Earth Science in 7th and Life Science in 8th. So we get kids who’ve already taken Life Science taking it again for a full year. I hear them and I need ideas for them. And if they want a less techy approach I have Earth Science textbooks. Some kids do like that.

“I like being able to talk to other people about what is going on, and getting to communicate with other classes is a freedom that makes the class seem less patronizing, and that is what i prefer in a learning environment.”

“well the way you/mr.g is doing things how your so organized and my table has amazing teamwork to a point, i love working on the machines and it amazes me how you come up with these lessons and programs and website that we can access here  in the lab and even at our own home.”

Good to know. I need some reassurance that I’m making a good learning environment for a majority of my students.

“It’s going just fine, neither great or horrible.  I felt it best to put the rating at five because it’s been a nutueral year and I kinda fell into a rut two to three weeks into school.
Again, it’s in the middle area, my learing this year has been back and forth so far.
In all honesty, I don’t really think the ribbon of life was helpful, my education was up to google and people whose resources may or may not be correct and I didn’t happen to like that.  The internet is a very tricky thing, everyone has a different opinion and finding the correct answer and actually learning can be very difficult for student that doesn’t have any starter websites.
But, comparing a cell to a factory was very helpful and I learned a lot.  The website had too much information to just be making it up as it went a long.
All in all I think there is a fine line in which your science classes tred when trying to learn from the Internet.”

“Well really the more hands on things that don’t envolve the Internet.  I will fully admit to having a life ruled by technology when it comes to socializing and free time, but I would prefer to keep my education more professional and I’d rather trust my teacher then Google.  Google and I are on extremely shakey terms.”

This one was another rare one, the only one of its kind really, but it’s important that we hear all of our students and try something to accommodate as many of our students as we can. Individualized learning is not easy for me because I’m not quite sure how it looks based on what my students are used to doing and based on how I’ve taught for most of my career. For me though, I prefer the Internet to a 2001 Science textbook. And I strongly believe that my students need to learn how to find information on the Internet. A bunch of my 8th graders are telling me how hard it is to sift through so much information from a Google search to find an answer to something. Yes! Yes, it is!

I consider myself as an educator who is open to change. I try new things. I don’t think of myself as a teacher who is set in his ways yet I do have to admit to having some things that I find more comfortable. I try to notice when I’m in my comfort zone that I can get out of it when students need me to do so. So I will take this feedback and try to make a better experience for those who aren’t having one right now.

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