> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: September 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Asking for feedback

I bit the bullet this week and asked my students to let me know how they were finding my teaching. I explained that I didn’t mean personal remarks just whether they felt I was helping them to learn, and what I might do better. I asked them to respond in particular to my 'comment only' marking on their last assignment. They duly took out a sheet of loose leaf -after we had discovered that ‘foolscap’ is not a term used in this part of the US.

I was worried they might be either too hard on me, or less helpfully, too nice. There were a few responses of the worryingly ambiguous type - 'I can't think of anything you could do to be a better teacher'. But they were also quite direct too –which was refreshing. The following is fairly typical of the responses I got.

‘Thank you for saying that you liked my introduction. I didn't think this one was any good. Why did you?'

'I agree that I need to work on my paragraphing. To be honest I don’t understand how paragraphs work. I never did them at my last school either.’

‘I rushed this homework because I wanted to go out to a movie with friends. That won’t happen again.’

‘I liked what you did with not giving us our grades right away. I would like if you wrote more comments.’

‘What is juxtaposition?’ (Er… my favourite word?)

‘You didn’t explain that we needed to have more than one example’ (I hadn’t either!)

and my personal favourite:

‘I like your accent. I wish I had one.’

I’ve found out what ‘Homecoming’ is. It’s the first home game of our school football team –and it takes place next week. We have been fundraising, voting for princesses and decorating our classroom doors all week. More about this soon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Access at last!

Finally we negotiate the peculiarities of internet access for foreigners in the USA. I must admit I was surprised to find that getting properly connected was so complicated.

Life is still a bit messy. We are living out of suitcases and borrowings at the moment.

But school has been going for a couple of weeks and I am just starting to take a deep breath. Making sense of homerooms and grading systems, semesters and sophomores has been pretty challenging. I’m in the early stages of translation (things go through the Scottish filter: sophomores -that’s fourth years, attendance that’s registration.)

Grades are very important. Pupils, sorry students, constantly ask for their grade.

I’m determined not to lose some of the AifL skills I’ve learnt over the last while. I have actually managed to get a couple of classes to read my ‘comment only’ marking. They have been told they will get their grades later in the week when I am happy they know what to do to improve. They can hardly wait…

In the staffroom (sorry teacher's lounge)I try to refrain from asking too many silly questions. What is homecoming for example? I will be finding out tomorrow. Apparently I will be selling candy bars until then. Is this a metaphor for something else?