Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ask the Tough Questions

One of the hardest things to do is to ask for help. Equally as challenging is to ask for someones opinion. The kind of opinion that is genuine, truthful and doesn't come with fears of repercussions. When asking for help, we are often afraid of the backlash. Scared that we will be judged or thought less of.

Yet, that is exactly what we are doing as we wrap up this school year.

The school in which I lead will once again open themselves up to these very ideas. We are asking the tough (and some not so tough) questions of our students, our staff and our school community. I have often heard the following expression: "one year does not make a trend". Therefore, let's collect the data. Let's discover some trends, let's find what is working, and as equally as important, let's find what is not working. With this information we will be ready for the school year that lies ahead. As with any school district or school itself, our goal is simple - we strive to be at our best. To be the best for our students, our community and for our fellow colleagues,

As we work with students in the classrooms in which we teach, we remind them that the answers to their questions are within reach. Therefore, here is how we ask our stakeholders for their take on our work:

- We give our 7th and 8th graders the Student Experience Survey through Battelle for Kids. This specific survey speaks to Engagement, Hope, Belonging and Classroom Management. Giving this survey in both the fall and spring gives teachers feedback to what they need to know to reflect on how students perceive their environment and helps them understand their students.

- As students exit our school building next week, we will also be giving them a survey specific to their experiences at our middle school in relation to activities, the learning process, their teachers and their likes and dislikes. Many of the questions will be multiple choice but their will be some questions that ask for more information. This is a very transparent exercise that shows our willingness to reflect and improve and/or maintain.

- We also ask our teachers for their feedback and their opinion of their year, throughout the year. We ask what's worked or not worked. And we ask where have we hit (or missed) the mark with our leadership. They are encouraged to be as honest as possible. And, after giving this survey for the past few years, they are. And thanks to them, we are better at what we do.

- Through the relationship with our Parent-Teacher Organization, we have cast our net that much further when it comes to embracing our work and the expectations they have as a group of invested parents. We know the community plays a significant role in the education we deliver and the experiences our students have. Whether classroom interactions or extra-curricular activities, our community gives a perspective that assists us in improving our services. As we wrap up our year with them, they too are given a survey of sorts in which they can help us grow as a system.

Students, staff and community, the three pillars of education. We have to be able to ask the tough questions and be open to hearing the raw responses. It is imperative to seek out feedback that will enhance the climate, the learning and the student experience in our schools.


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  2. Excellent food for thought! I don't believe there is one organization that would not be improved by seeking this sort of feedback. I feel blessed and fortunate to be in a building where we are doing this.
    I know that I have personally benefited from frequently seeking feedback from my students.I love when they feel safe enough to ask their questions - including the tough ones - and I encourage it daily! Helps me learn how to better clarify content, seek a variety of more effective methods, identify new resources, and challenges me to think more creatively. And that is a pretty exciting process to get to be a part of.

  3. I believe in giving all of the stakeholders a voice. This voice is powerful and can change one's perspective. I have kids fill out an informal evaluation of me at the end of the year -- then I wait a few weeks to look at it. (I don't want the hectic nature of the last days to color the opinions expressed.) It often helps me to see what worked and what didn't and what was most important in the classroom. It's not always easy, but it does make for a stronger experience for all. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone to do this.

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