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Saturday, August 29, 2015

If you ask the question...

Every year, after close to ten months together, I ask my Room 216'rs to write me a letter. Hopefully by that point in the year, they trust me. They would typically have taken 3-4 anonymous surveys and have fully understood that there were no repercussions for their honest feedback. I ask them what they enjoyed and didn't, what I did well, what I can do better?

I don't require letter writers to sign their name and I don't require that everyone write one. This year 27 of 28 wrote me a letter and all of them signed their name. Trust indeed.

I hold on to the letters until late in the summer until it's a little easier to let them go. Something I'm not ready to do when I collect the envelopes in June.

The humidity of August saw me unpacking the boxes that were sealed up in the hot of June, when I realized I hadn't opened 'em up. When I got home from organizing the 2000+ books that make-up our classroom library, I risked some paper cuts and started ripping them open.

The notes were honest. Candid. Some were surprising. Some were not. I knew that I wasn't the right teacher for a couple of them. All the letters will help me become a better teacher.

I always tell my kids, if they figure out a way to forget the criticism and remember the praise, to give me call, because I'd like to know the secret.

I've received feedback from anonymous surveys and 360 feedback processes for the last 20 years, but it's different when you've let down a kid. I asked the question and I'm glad they answered.

It wasn't all disheartening.

One of my kids detailed how she thought I was a little crazy, how my jokes were lame, and how she mostly thought it was the best year of her life. Hopefully a short lived accolade. She thanked me for helping her to realize that she was capable of much more than she ever realized.

I tucked her letter into the book that she wrote during her lunch periods this year and self-published the piece to a hardcover novella. She signed her letter "from the girl who now believes"

If you ask the question...you better be prepared for the answer. I'm glad I asked.

Thanks for reading.
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