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In the Students' Hands

There comes a time with every child when the parents must allow them to go off on their own to do their own thing.  We often talk about the baby bird first using its wings to fly, and while poetic, the real thing scares the crap out of us!  As teachers, it is the same feeling as we end the school year, knowing our students will fly off to the next grade or to their next adventure in life.  We question... did we do all we needed to do?  Did we do it right?  What should I have done differently?

Every year, on those final days, I take time to say goodbye to my students.  I am not a "party" teacher, and I was never good with the sappy "see you laters."  Instead, I tried to organize a simple discussion with my kids.  I gave that "What I hope for you..." speech and I told them as a whole group how much I had learned from them through the year.  I then opened the floor to their thoughts and concerns, often sitting there, hoping I would hear their praise and affirmations.

I taught 6-12th grades.  That praise and affirmation stuff I hoped for just isn't second nature for them.  Expecting them to openly, in front of their peers, discuss their dedication and appreciation of me and all I did for their lives just wasn't going to happen.

Now, I have to admit, I did have some of those classes, usually my AP or Magnet kids, who were open and appreciative.  They came with gifts, Starbucks cards, and cards filled with wonderful thoughts and wishes.  Here's the twist... I was less concerned about their opinions than I was about those who I could just never figure out.  I wanted to know that I reached them all... not just the ones I knew were "my" kids.  I wanted to know that I made a difference in ALL of their lives.  I HAD to know!

So, I did what I had to do... I gave my students one last assignment.  I gave them a Final Exit Slip.  Only this one was not to assess them; it was to assess me.  And they took me up on the opportunity to tell me all their thoughts, sometimes good, sometimes bad!

I have learned more from those exit slips each year than I learned in all of my education classes combined.  I've learned what I do right, and what I need to improve upon.  I've also learned that my perceptions are often WAY off!

And when I read those comments from the students I worried about most, I am reassured that in one way or another, I made a difference.  I receive that affirmation from them, in their own words.  And sometimes those words can be harsh, but they are what I need to remind me why I do what I do!

Michele

Need an Exit Slip to use with your students on the last day of school?  Try this one:

End of Year Student Survey Exit Slip