The Adult in the Room?

A few years ago I used an online collaborative whiteboard (I don’t remember which one) to collect student’s opinions about something (again, I’ve forgotten what). It was going really well until one of my charmers drew a lovely big willy in the middle of the screen. These were year 12’s and, frankly, I found it a bit funny, so it wasn’t a discipline issue. Still, I shut down the session straight away and moved over to WallWisher. “Right! you can write your ideas down.” Almost instantly someone put a note in the middle of the screen that just said “Willy!” I, of course, was juvenile enough to still think this pretty funny.

Now this is the first question I have:

I know that I can moderate my padlet walls, but are the students really getting genuine student voice if they know they are being moderated? If they know they’re being potentially censored, will they start self-moderating, and is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I self censor all the time. Perhaps it’s a good thing that they learn to do so.

At the start of unit two this year I decided to ask my year 11s how I could improve my teaching. I actually did this on the fly, but padlet was in the front of my mind thanks to this post and these comments by and with Aaron Davis. So I told them to tell me how I could improve and this is what I got:

How I can ImproveNow there’s quite a bit to be embarrassed about on this. I do tend to be pretty late with my marking, and I do tend to leave a lot of theory until the last minute. I obviously haven’t taught my students how to spell excursion, either. I’m quite happy with the fact that one of my cherubs had the thought to tell me about a lesson that they thought was particularly good.

Encouraged by this, I then asked them to write down what they thought they could do to improve. Here it is:


What struck me about this is how little the students have any idea about what they can actually do for themselves. I know dozens of ways that I can improve, but all they can come up with is “try harder”, in essence. I get PD all the time about how I can improve my general teaching, but (question 2):

When and where do my students get PD about ways in which they can improve their general learning? Is this a problem for other people, or is it just me?

Finally, what I’m pleased about with the examples above is that, despite the fact that students were anonymous, and despite that I was actually asking for a critique of myself, nobody was untruthful or nasty. In fact, I’m sure they pulled a few punches. I think this comes down to having positive relationships with them, and that comes down to their feeling of agency in our classroom. Their feeling of agency makes them able to have an adult exchange, which improves their feeling of agency, and so on.

Am I really the adult in my classroom?
Am I really the adult in my classroom?

As the adults in the classroom it’s up to us to allow our students’ voices to be heard. If at first their voices are nasty and unpleasant, that’s because they’re not used to using them. The more they use them the nicer they’ll become.

At least that’s what I hope.


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