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… although the first day of school was two weeks ago.

I’m lucky that I had enough sick days saved up to afford to miss pre-planning and the first two weeks to stay home with Baby Bigfoot. I must say I’m a bit sad that I no longer will get to spend the whole day with him aside from the weekends; it’s moments like these that make me miss living in Europe with its evil social welfare systems that include paid maternity leave. Anyway, I thought I’d distract myself by getting ready for work on Tuesday.

To start, I decided to catch up on some education news from the summer. Two stories caught my attention. First, I was glad to hear that the state passed a new law that makes it illegal to evaluate teachers based on the standardized test scores of students they never taught. Why would we need such a law, you say? Well because of course, Florida was doing just that, and it required a lawsuit for the legislature to see the light. Speaking of the legislature, Florida lost its Commissioner of Education… again! We’ve gone through 5 in the last two and a half years. Incidentally, the latest one resigned amidst allegations that he manipulated test scores in his previous state to benefit a charter school. Classic.

Well, that’s enough foolishness. Let’s move on to people who have more sense. My 8th and 9th graders from last year.

The second part of my getting ready consisted of reading the end of year surveys I have the students fill out during the last week of school. They are anonymous, and I always read them during the summer to guide any changes for the following year.

According to my 9th graders, this is what I did well:

  • Always provided feedback/critique
  • Graded on quality, not just on turning work in
  • Little homework due to so much work done in class
  • Open-minded as to my teaching methods
  • Read their rough drafts
  • Had high standards, which made them work harder

They disliked:

  • Taking notes from the textbook
  • Bookwork
  • The District Assessments
  • That I sometimes gave notes and then did not revisit the topic

They had a love/hate relationship with my Power Points. Several students said it was what they found least helpful to their learning, but several others said it was the most helpful element of the class.

Funny quote from one of the surveys, under the “suggestions” category: “I suggest that you lay off the souls.”

My 8th graders had a fill in the blanks version of the survey. Aside from several creeper comments about my pregnancy (ex.: “I wish I got to touch your belly”) and sweet ones (ex: You’re going to be a great mom”), their feedback was pretty similar to that of the 9th graders.

Pluses:

  • No pointless work
  • They had to earn their grades
  • High expectations
  • Teach in a simple manner

Minuses

  • Bookwork
  • Allowed too much off-topic talking

Overall, there weren’t too many surprises. I really feel that due to the pregnancy, I wasn’t really on top of my game last year, so I am glad students still felt like they were taught well. Many of my 8th graders even said they hoped to have me again this year as 9th graders.

I do find it quite interesting that they gave me an accurate and useful evaluation… more than the state of Florida seems to be able to do for teachers.

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