Take the Time to Ask

If you want to know what a student thinks, just ask him.

Last week, our students completed yearly surveys about their current courses and teachers. I believe that students’ candid feedback is the greatest resource administrators and teachers have to identify areas of concern and facilitate improvements, both in our classrooms and on our campus.

Educators must always be searching for and creating venues to capture reliable data; it helps us to understand the effectiveness of teachers, curricula, and programs. And while I am not diminishing the value of traditional academic data and analysis, I am promoting the value of insight from students. This is, I believe, the best information an educator can possess, and it is, regrettably, underutilized. When our surveys are completed, I scour the reviews to see what our students think. By and large, they provide insights that help us grow as an institution, and in this way, we make them our partners. Students can be a catalyst for constructive changes if we give them the opportunity. It seems so simple and obvious, but it bears repeating – students will tell you the truth if you take the time to ask.

With that thought in mind, I recently asked a group of students to respond to additional questions about our school. The questions varied in tone, ranging from, “What’s something funny that happened at school recently?” to more pointed and academic queries such as, “How do your teachers provide feedback to you?” or “What characteristics make a great teacher?” As I reviewed their responses, I learned many things. I laughed at their humor and appreciated their distinctive way of seeing our school and the world. I hope that they took away something from this exercise as well—something beyond a chance to reflect on their own experiences.  I hope they realized that I value their insights, that I trust in their forthrightness, and that they have a prized role in shaping the direction of our school. I will share their thoughts on our school in future posts, but in the meantime, take the time to ask a student what he feels. There is wisdom in their honesty.

If you are interested in seeing our student survey and follow-up questions, I encourage you to email me at Mr.Burke@Hermits.com. “Educational larceny” is a good thing. I am always willing to share.