What Students Said in My Year-End Surveys

A MiddleWeb Blog

With two weeks of school left, I have started thinking back to the beginning of the year. I was so anxious and nervous. I was worried about masks, bringing Covid home to my family, and how I was going to manage teaching math virtually. I was pretty emotional back in August.

Now that the year is almost over, I’m emotional because the students that I feel so close to are leaving. We weathered something important together, and I am sad to see them go. I have so many feelings and mixed emotions about this strangest of all school years. I know my students feel the same.

I wanted to give them an opportunity to share their feelings and insights. I typically have students fill out an end of the year survey, but this year was unique and I knew my survey needed to be different than usual.

I asked students about their feelings and stress levels and gave them a chance to tell me more if they chose to. I even asked them what song they would use to describe this year – they came up with some pretty good responses.

I was touched by many of their answers. And it was sobering to hear the students talk about the amount of stress they were under.

I’m impressed by their mature and reasonable comments. I recommend giving your students a survey at the end of the year, too. They don’t always say what you want them to or what you expect them to, but it’s always enlightening. And perhaps also a little “stress relieving” right now.

Here are some of their responses

Briefly describe how this year went for you.

  • Stressful
  • Difficult
  • Enjoyable
  • Crazy – but in a good way

If you had to pick a song to describe this year, what would it be?

  • “The Burden” – Slipknot
  • “Through the Fires and Flame” – Dragonforce
  • “Thanks for the Memories” – Panic at the Disco

What is one something you wish teachers would do that they don’t already?

  • “I wish teachers would try and build better relationships with students because when a student likes their teacher it helps them a lot”
  • “Accept the fact that some students don’t learn as fast as others”
  • “Constantly nag me to do my work”
  • “Ask about us”
  • “More teachers trying to connect with their students”

What is something that teachers don’t know that you think they should know?

  • “I think teachers should know that we actually do listen to you guys, and care very deeply about you. I know that can be difficult to believe sometimes, but it is true! Y’all make such an impact on our lives and every single one of us are grateful!!” (several students mentioned being grateful)
  • “how hard it is to do work at home”
  • “A lot of kids who don’t talk have high anxiety and therefore should be treated with at least a little more care.”

What was one thing we did this year that helped you learn?

  • “The fact that you allowed 2nd attempts on your tests actually helped me learn SO MUCH! I didn’t feel the pressure of having to be perfect on your tests and that helped me actually listen and learn the content that you were teaching.”
  • “The bingo games” (a lot of kids put this answer)
  • IXL

Name one thing that stresses you out about school.

  • “Having multiple classes assign homework and have tests on the same day” (multiple students responded with this comment)
  • Deadlines
  • Other people

What I found surprising…

So many kids liked math Bingo. One student said that they liked looking for the math terms on their “Bingo Card.” I was surprised because Bingo is as low tech as you can get. That may be part of it; maybe students enjoy the change of pace. (I wrote about the bingo games here.)

I was also surprised by the number of students who said that they were stressed out by other people. I always think of teenagers as being very social, but a lot of them said that interacting with others was stressful.

It was such a nice surprise to see how many students told me that they were grateful for their teachers. Again and again students said that the teacher trying to have a relationship with them and trying to get to know them was important.

The sheer range of responses regarding how they felt about this year was surprising. Many students responded that they felt a lot of stress and anxiety, but others said this was a great year with little to no problems.

Looking Ahead – Finding Solutions

I can’t ask students for their opinion and then ignore it. If a student takes the time to answer honestly, it’s my responsibility to take it seriously. A big issue for my students was assignments from different classes being due on the same day. Many students said it was big cause for stress.

So next year I will have to find some way to help with this problem. I am thinking about having some kind of flex schedule for tests or a calendar where they can let me know when other big assignments are due. That’s something I will have to iron out the details on.

Many students mentioned that is was important to know that their teacher cared about them, or was willing to spend time talking with them. It is very obvious that students put a premium on their relationship with their teacher so that is something I will continue to focus on. Allowing retakes on tests was something that students said helped them to learn and reduced their stress, so I will do that again next year.

It’s this time of year that I start running out of gas. But reading these surveys has me looking forward to next year! I’m excited to think what might be possible and how I can improve.

All in all, it’s been a good year. I’m grateful that we were able to actually “have school” all year. It was very difficult at times, but I have grown as a teacher and this year’s students will always have a special place in my heart.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell (@michel1erussel1) is a math teacher at Florence (AL) High School. She began her career as a student teacher in middle school and has taught students from 7th to 12th grade. For the past 13 years, she's taught high school math, including Algebra IB, Algebraic Connections, Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, Algebra with Finance, and Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. In her free time, she enjoys reading books about math education and following other teachers on Twitter.

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