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Leo's Interviews - Some Initial Thoughts

Before going into some specific thought on some things that came out of Leo Rigsby's interviews with my students, I just wanted to get some general thoughts out and respond a couple of the comments others made based on my original post.

Euclid wrote:

I think you are being too nice about the kid who said you made innappropriate comments. The little s**t saw it as a chance to take a cheap shot at you. Constructive critisim is great and worth its weight in gold. However rare is the 9th grade student that can provide us this feedback.
Here is the student comment he was refering to:
I found that Mr. Lazar was a terrible teacher. He had mood swings, and always found his opinion to be right, and never played devil’s advocate. I would actually feel bad for someone who gets him as a teacher, because of the way he acts. He said Catholics are bad, and Jews always are right, and they are God’s people, putting down other religions constantly. Another problem was his constant name calling, he even recently called a group of mine, “a bunch of dicks.” I mean if you call someone that make sure it’s someone who could respond, because if I responded, I could have been suspended for threatening him. Bottom line, he is the worst teacher I have ever had.
I think Lexi (who for the record, is a 9th grader that just provided some very intelligent feedback) already said much of my initial reaction to this comment. The student who Euclid refered to as a "little s**t" was doing exactly what she was told to do. Did the student take a cheap shot at me? Perhaps. But assuming this is the student I am 99% sure that it was, what she wrote was not inconsistent with earlier statement she had openly made to me throughout the year. The bottom line is that this student hated me, and because of that she did not learn in my class. And it is my job to insure that students learn. This student was incredibly intelligent and did well in some of her other classes, but for whatever reason she decided very early on in the year that I would not be an effective teacher for her and checked out. Was her criticism of me something I take seriously? Absolutely not. However, I do take seriously my inability to be an effective teacher for her.

Euclid also wrote that she/he believes it is rare that a 9th grader can provide constructive criticism. My question for Euclid is, have you ever sought out criticism from your students?

Because I did this formally on a quarterly basis, and informally much more frequently. Out of my 120 students, I would say that 50-60% of them consistently provided useful (worth its weight in gold) criticism. The student responses that were not useful were mostly either from students who loved the class and didn't want anything to change, or from students who would only write "This class is ok." And yes, there would be one or two students who would take 'cheap shots.' But those responses quickly made their way to the trash, and from the rest I could readjust my teaching (or more often, the way I presented my teaching) in a ways to benefit my students.

Much of what I will have so much to say in response to Leo's Interviews is because things came out that had not come out in my earlier attempts at getting feedback. My students had never said anything to me about being too strong on my opinions. They had mentioned the "friends" issue, but not in a way that I truly understood until reading these responses. And there are a handful of other things that came out that made me think about the past year in a different way that I'll be writing about.

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