Over the past two years our school has been involved with an action research project run by Curtin University in Western Australia. The project examines classroom climate by surveying students about their actual perceptions of the classroom environment and how they would prefer the environment to be. Individual teachers receive the results and have a set period of time to reflect on them and plan and implement changes in their classroom. The survey is then readministered and the final results compared to the initial ones.
Last year the project was voluntary and around 30 teaching staff opted to participate. This year all teachers are required to participate and the Curtin University staff are currently in Adelaide to administer the initial surveys. We will then gather in our Curriculum Teams (groups formed around shared learning groups, not necessarily faculties), and engage in a process of active collaborative reflective practice as we plan for how we will improve our own classroom environments.
Today in Lesson 6 was my turn for my Year 8 key class to complete the survey about my classes. I will be honest, I was a tad nervous. Part of me wanted to peek over their shoulders and sneak a look at their responses – but I didn’t. When they asked me questions to clarify meanings (some of the language is a little difficult for Year 8s) I kept my eyes glued solely on the question they were referring to. I won’t lie – that wasn’t easy.
This taught me something about my relationship with them that perhaps until now had been recognised mostly subconsciously. I WANT them to like me. It sounds like such an adolescent thing to express, but I do. And I doubt any teacher would disagree. We don’t want to feel that a group of kids dislikes us – either personally or as a professional. Of course I recognise that some people will not be my biggest fans and that’s okay. But I hope they make a balanced judgment on that and that we can still have a mutual respect for each other.
But let’s face it, education is mostly about relationships and this goes as much for teachers as it does for students. And as nervous as I was about them completing this survey about my classes, I realise that this gives my students more of a voice in an English classroom that is largely dictated by what the current curriculum tells us we need to cram into the school year. One of my goals this year is to help my students take ownership of their learning, and this survey is one avenue to help them do so.
As for the slight sense of judgement I was feeling as they filled in their online tick boxes – well, to be fair, don’t I make judgments about them every day regarding their attitude, progress and abilities? It’s only fair that they get to respectfully tell me how they perceive my classes. Yes, they’re only twelve or thirteen and have no formal training in ‘quality teaching’ – but they are the ones currently experiencing what it means to ‘get an education” and whilst I will take their feedback with a grain of salt, they deserve to be listened to.
I will continue to post my reflections as the project progresses.