In order to complete Mission 1 for Explore the MTBoS, I have been frantically trying to figure out what makes my classroom different than other classrooms. Many of the things that I came up with are things of which I have no reason to be proud, or are out of my control.
So I asked my students.
Earlier in the week I gave my kids a half sheet of paper and asked them to write down what made my class different. I told them not to put names on it because I wanted honesty without fear of consequences.
I had to clarify the question a few times because several students put "it's dark in here" or "it's colder than my other classes."
Sifting through the feedback, I found a few themes that kept coming up. A few of them were expected while others were not and warmed my heart. I was actually quite worried that my geometry kids would say they loved my class and my pre-algebra students hated it. I do worry that I don't treat my different classes fairly because of my own biases about ability, effort and content. For the most part, the students who claimed to hate me and my class and everyone I've ever met all did come from my pre-algebra class, but even they were the exception.
Here is a random sampling (without edits). Feel free to skip to the bottom when you get tired of reading them.
This class is different from my other classes for many reasons. I think you should feed us. This is my favorite subject! Its so funny in here man! but back to the food. If you fed us, it would be better. You don't let us go to the bathroom. I have to go! One more time though you should feed us because we are hungry.
I think Mr. Aion's teaching can help when don't understand, but it more quiet he allows us to work with partners. <3
We can't go to the bathroom...THAT SUCKS. You get mad over the dumbest things.
This class is different because in here we have double periods and it's really hard but the good things is that you teach us good and you don't take nothing from nothing so this about the best class of the day.
This class is different because some people are stupid in behavior wise. People are slow so we have to work slower in the class. :-) One thing I like is that you are fun. One think I don't like is that you scare me lol! just saying.
This class is strict but other than that Mr. Aion is a good teacher i learn faster in here then in other classes But he does yell to much also we can't go to the bathroom also he scare me. I hate when you smack the desk with your stick. This class can be fun at times This class can be boring but I don't care cause i'm learning.
The teachers are so rude they don't really try to go over things like you. You could explain the problem. This class can be fun but sometimes this class can be despressing because of the work. I need to step up my game and this class with be ok for now! <3 :)
This class is really hard to me. I can't seemed to focus it's hot. I don't mind you yelling. I try to focus but it don't work. I know I'm going to fail. I try not to think of it but :-( But I like you even though stricted but I like you. I need to ask for help. I think this class is fun. I tink this class more educational your helpful. The other classes are difficult to
Mr. Aion has a good sense of humor. He makes math fun. We can't go to the bathroom. He be livin life to the fullest. He is just super honest.
Whats bad I that its cold in here and Mr. Aion does not let us S.L.E.E.P
Push us to learn more math stuff
The teacher is nice 2 the kids.
What sets Mr. Aion's class apart is that I learn about more than just geometry, and it's done in a way that's not opening a book and doing a certain amount of questions.
Our teacher enjoys our company
Mr. Aion's class is cool because we talk about stuff that is not math. We also do fun projects like the thing with the house building. But we also do enough math to learn the material.
You don't care about if we are 100% on task or not. You share some of your life
Mr. Aion gets happy to teach us. He's good with making sure we aren't put in awkward positions and we're clueless. He fixes problems. He has creative ideas for what to do in class.
Mr. Aion's class is different from my other class. The work in our other classes isn't as difficult as Mr. Aion's work. Mr. Aion expects alot from us and wants us to try our best. In some of my other classes it seems like the teacher could care less if we passed or failed. Mr. Aion's class differs from my other classes.
I like Mr. Aions class because he puts teaching in realistic terms. Instead of just lecturing or just giving us dependent work, he teaches us and makes it easy to understand by relating it to every day life.
Mr. Aion's class is fun because we talk about random things other than geometry. He makes learning more interesting than the other classes. My other classes are not interesting, they are boring.
There are others, but I'm sure I've bored you away. Overall, they were positive with some common themes like being interesting and the work being challenging.
I like to think that the topics in the discussion I led at EdCampPGH about the importance of being silly have informed my teaching and made my students more comfortable in my classroom. Student perception is everything. Even when it's not accurate, it informs their worldview and changes how they interact with their teachers and their lives. There were several, especially the ones about yelling, that I immediately thought "I certainly don't do that ever."
But it doesn't matter if I do or not. What matters is how the students perceive it.
My take-away from this is that I'm moving in the right direction. I'm nowhere near where I want to be, but this feedback is a good indication that I'm getting there. Especially with the student perceptions, I need to be more conscious about how I interact with them. I need to think more about how a student is perceiving the way that I speak with them and the kinds of demands and standards that I put on them.
I will (probably) not change my stance about the bathroom, but I will continue to bring it outside resources and topics that interest them.
This was a difficult mission for me and I don't have confidence that I completed it to the satisfaction of the community. I'll try better with the next one. :-)