I remember the first time I invited my students to provide feedback on MY work. I was a brand new teacher with a brand new curriculum inside of a brand new school. I started teaching seniors the day after spring break. They were 17 and 18 years old. I was 21.
And I was terrified.
The school system that I worked for maintained a local graduation outcome requiring all seniors to compose a research paper. Those who didn't wouldn't receive their diploma. And I was hired to replace a teacher who had been pretty checked out all year long. My students hadn't been required to submit any kind of homework since September, let alone compose a massive research paper.
I certainly had my work cut out for me, and while most of my students knew this and treated me with kid gloves, a few tried to take complete advantage of the situation.
I learned a great deal that year.
When I told my colleagues that I planned to seek my students' feedback on my curriculum and my teaching practices in June, quite a few advised against it. Those who encouraged me warned that I would need a thick skin. My principal told me to take names. "No anonymous responses," he suggested. "You'll only be begging for trouble."
I didn't require names. I went in with an open heart and an open mind and the same relatively thin skin I am proud to walk around in today. And I was impressed by the responses that I received.
"It means a lot that you care enough to ask us what we think," one of my students wrote.
And I did care. I cared a great deal.
Since then, I've always tried to create contexts where my students know they can challenge me. Even as I work with adult learners, I hope I leave everyone in the room realizing that my intention is never to tell anyone what to do or what to think, but instead, support their learning. I often do this by creating spaces for people to push back on our agenda, our approaches, and the conclusions we're reaching together.
How might we help students do the same?
On Wednesday, I'll be back to explore Hack 8 and share a few new tools that support this idea well. I hope this post will help you answer that question.
If you're uncertain how our book club works, take a peek at this page. Then, grab a copy of the book, and get ready to settle in to this week's conversation. I look forward to chatting with you. You'll find me here, on Twitter, and in the Compassionate Classrooms Facebook group. Let's talk more.