Assessing Your Year
The first year of teaching can be exhilarating,
heartbreaking, and simply very, very tiring. As you approach
the end of your first year, you will want to assess your own
growth as a teacher. Even as a ten-year veteran I need to
reflect upon what has worked and not worked over the year;
and I find that the process makes me better able to meet the
challenges of the following year. By taking the time to
assess your own performance this year, you can apply the
lessons you have learned to your second (and hopefully much
I like to assess my year in two ways: What have the students
enjoyed? What have the students learned?
To find out what my students have enjoyed, I ask them to
write me a letter evaluating the year. I usually ask them to
include the following information:
What is the most important thing you have learned in my
What parts of my class have you enjoyed? What made these
What parts of my class haven't you liked? Why didn't you
like these things?
What advice do you have for me for next year?
letters can sometimes be a little painful; after all, kids don't
hesitate to tell you that you yell too much, that you are boring,
and that you need a breath mint after lunch. However, I usually
find that the positive comments far outweigh the negative. If
you have students write these letters each year, you will also
be able to see improvement. In my earlier years of teaching, students
always wrote that I yelled too much, but over the years, that
comment has virtually disappeared.
It can help to remind students of the various activities you
have done during the year before they write the letters;
otherwise, they tend to write mostly about more recent
activities. Although you can probably predict what
activities appealed to your students based on their
reactions during class, I always get a few surprises. The
simple act of asking kids what they think gives you a lot of
insight into your own classroom.
I also find it interesting to evaluate what students have learned
and retained over the course of the year. In many cases you can
do this in conjunction with finals. However, if your students
are too young, or your school doesn't customarily give finals,
you can create a Jeopardy-type academic tournament for a fun culminating
For an academic tournament, I like to have students create
their own review questions. I usually divide them into
groups by topic, and have the groups brainstorm a list of
review questions about that topic. I type up the review
questions, adding some of my own if necessary. Then the
students choose teams and work in their teams to ensure that
everyone knows the answers to all the review questions. Of
course, if you don't have time for this process, you can
generate review questions yourself. I usually find that the
better my teaching for a given unit, the more detail the
students have retained.
As you consider what your students have enjoyed and what
they have learned, you can reflect on the following:
What did my students learn the most about?
Why were they able to understand and retain this particular
set of skills and information?
What strategies can I incorporate in my teaching to help my
students retain more?
What parts of my class did my students enjoy?
What made these activities enjoyable?
What strategies can I incorporate in my teaching to make my
class more enjoyable for my students?
Where can I go to get help and ideas?
Good teachers are constantly evolving. Hopefully, by asking
and answering these simple questions we can think about our
impact on students and continually improve our practice.