While sorting through my portfolio materials the other day, I found copies of student evaluations (click to view) that I handed out at the end of last school year. I thought that I would add a reflection about these precious documents.
In college and in graduate school, I always felt as if I had a voice when it came to evaluating my professors. At the end of each course, they always gave each student an evaluation form. With it, the students could rate the professor's performance in the class. I don't know if anyone ever read the forms or took them seriously, but I felt as if I actually had a chance to express my opinions of the course and professor, openly and honestly.
I wanted to do the same thing for my students. The entire school system is currently based around teachers evaluating the students. Sure, school administrators review each teacher's performance. Yet the students are the only ones who actually spend time with the teacher (in our case) three out of every four days, while the teacher is actually, well, teaching. Wouldn't that make the students the best evaluators? Skeptics may feel that this is a responsibility with which we should not entrust students. Children will not take this seriously, they say. I disagree. I feel that if I, as a teacher, show respect for my students, then they will show respect for me, whether they like my class or not. At the very least they will provide that for which I am asking: honesty.
I did read every single completed evaluation form that I received. I kept the students' comments in mind, and I will try to focus on areas of criticism. I have a great affection for students who really offer many comments, as they are the ones who are truly sharing a piece of themselves with me. All of their identities are anonymous in these evaluations, so I have no idea who has written what, but I always appreciate extensive feedback. The downloadable evaluations are largely positive (although, in my mind, every form came positive), but they were chosen on the basis of the thoroughness of the evaluations.