Putting it Out There

Being able to learn from what we do is such an important part of improving our performance. While I know my own flaws and am aware of the things I think are necessary for me to work on, it is always beneficial to hear about what others’ perceptions of what I do are. I did this every year with my students; we would use a Google Form for students to evaluate my teaching. Students didn’t have to write their names if they didn’t want to, and they were able to give really helpful feedback on what worked for them, which lessons were their favorite, least favorite, what they wished we could have done more of, and ways I could improve for the next year. It can be a little scary, but honestly, I never had an inappropriate or hurtful response. Students love having a sense of agency. They love having a voice. The majority of students took the evaluation process seriously and provided really good feedback – often providing ideas for teaching that I hadn’t thought of myself.

Data-driven (everything) instruction is crucial, but it is often difficult to find meaning in data. I was never a numbers girl; social studies nerd all the way. So I often am overwhelmed with trying to make meaning from rows and rows of numbers. But when data is meaningful and easy to parse, it makes sense to me. Not only that, it makes me want to be better. I truly took to heart the suggestions and comments students provided in their end of year evaluations. Am I a completely different person? No. But, I am cognizant of how my mannerisms, delivery methods, responses, etc. can appear, and try to be as balanced and fair as possible.

Fitting myself into a new role as a Technology Integration Specialist is somewhat tricky. There are a vast number of teachers I am working with and just as many levels of technology knowledge. Creating presentations and offering suggestions that will be a one-size-fits-all is pretty challenging, and perhaps impossible. I have been working to provide a variety of tutorials that will hit on several different levels of technology confidence. So often, technology creates anxiety among teachers, but I do my best to help them to think about a device or a website as a tool, just like any other. Technology is a tool that makes a job or outcome easier. Paper is a technology. Pencils are technology. iPads are technology. The tool doesn’t matter – the learning does.

My overarching goal is to teach everyone at least ONE thing they will use – with confidence – in their classes. Beyond using it, the second piece of that goal  – and perhaps the more important piece of that goal – is that the technology tool teachers implement will enhance the learning for students. At the end of the day, that is the goal of technology – to transform WHAT we do, HOW we do it, and how students are CONNECTING to their learning.

This week I have spent some time working with teachers talking about iPad basics, using their Promethean Boards, and Kahoot. A variety of different tools, a variety of learner outcomes. And a plethora of lessons for this Integration Specialist to learn. To that end, I am putting myself out there in a sense. After sessions, I send an evaluation form to my attendees (thanks to my friend Jeremy Radner for the template!). The questions are simple; they ask teachers to evaluate their level of knowledge before and after the session and to provide any suggestions or comments if they’d like. There is always a risk in asking for feedback on something you do. Knowing what you do well – and hearing about that – is always nice, but that’s not how we grow and learn. It is only by asking for ways to improve, evaluating the reasonableness of that feedback, and, if necessary, implementing changes, that we truly grow and improve our practice.

After all, we ask our students to do these kinds of things all the time. We ask them to review their behavior, we provide feedback on their work (and their behavior sometimes!), and ask them to revise, improve, and learn. If we are not willing to do that ourselves, what kind of model are we for our kids?

Your Turn:

Do you ask for feedback often? 

How do you implement suggestions into your practice? 

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