Thursday, June 11, 2009

Students Give the Answers

In late April I asked the question - "How do You Measure Your Effectiveness?" The point was that in a data-driven education environment it sometimes becomes all about the numbers. We strive as educators to help our students earn "those numbers" and schools and teachers get defined - sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse - by the numbers. I said, "That doesn't tell me enough about my effectiveness as an educator."
Tonight, we celebrated the passing of the 5th grade class from elementary to middle school with our awards and recognition program, held at a beautiful church near our school. It was there that at I received at least part of the answer to my question of effectiveness - from a likely source - our students.
The students were the ones I work with producing our school's broadcast show. Ever since we launched WBBB we have worked dilligently to make it supportive of the curriculum, and motivational not only for the students on the show, but also our entire student body. We hold the broadcast crew to high standards regarding academics, behavior, and citizenship because we want to express and them to model what we value about those elements of life at Bolton.
We always honor our broadcast crew for their consistency in those areas, and ask them reflect on the process at the end of each year. Their reflections are edited into a short video presentation which we share at the awards program.
As I stood before packed pews and proud parents the students I was there to honor, honored me. It was humbling, because I've always believed our students make the broadcast a success. I'm just there to support the process.
Presented with a generous gift card to a local restaurant and handwritten cards from each student the answer for which I had been looking began to reveal itself. As I read the cards their words brought more into focus.

Here are some excerpts from their writings

"Thank-you for the stuff you have done for always make me laugh and made WBBB interesting."

"Thank-you for doing the best you could do for the new and old crew of WBBB. The new and old crew appreciate you so much... I want you to know that when I move I will miss you and Mrs. McMillan."

"We had a great time at school because you are a great leader to our whole class."

"Thank-You for a wonderful time at Bolton. It's an honor being on WBBB. Thanks for taking us to all the awesome places... I will always remember the things you did for us."

"Thanks for the field trips and videos and letting us have fun."

"Wanted to thank-you for all you do on WBBB. You are very smart (that's debatable). I will miss you when I move on to middle school."

"Thank you so much for your hard work teaching us rugrats how to use electronics to do our show. I will miss you terribly..."

"I have really been honored by being on WBBB news and I've learned a lot. Without you, none of this would have been possible."

"Thank-you for everything you have done."

Sometimes being an educator can be a thankless job, but tonight I was thankful to have mine. Many students always write or say they'll never forget you because that's the thing to say in the moment. In my experience, few have returned or written back to tell "the rest of their stories." While the gift card was overwhelmingly generous (and I plan to use it to help decompress from another arduous year) it's their written words I value most. They were so obviously genuine, and they let me know at some significant level I am, and we are at Bolton effective educators. Thanks students, for giving me the answers to my own test. (Is that cheating?)

Here is the video we presented tonight with our student reflections.

(Above photo by Alison Jackson-Bass via Flickr)

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