Analogies for Class Feedback

What your students think about your class matters.

Those of you who have already been in the classroom for a month ought to be well on your way to developing a feel for your kids, a feel for how things are going, and at least a couple ideas as to how in Hades you’re going to build relationships with those obnoxious goobers who are now yours to have and hold for the next eight months.

I once worked with a teacher who told me, “Oh, I never give class evaluations to the kids.  There’s no point.  They’re just going to say what they want to say anyway.”

Um…well…

Isn’t that the point?

No, they may not like everything you do.  No, they may not think your class is more interesting than the text that just dinged on the phone in their back pocket.  No, they may not even like you.  Suck it up.

Once I gained my new teacher sea legs enough to ignore the veteran teacher’s opinion and gave an end of the year evaluation to my kids, I quickly discovered that, given the chance, even the obsessive text-checking, back-talking, disengaged kids can give you some mighty useful feedback.  In punctuation-less, incomplete, spectacularly blunt sentences, perhaps, but useful nonetheless.

After my first year giving an evaluation, I became an evaluation junkie.  What my kids said to me proved so telling about what they were really doing in class, that I wished I had known it before the end of the year.  (The girl who never talks drew me a unicorn and thought my class was engaging?  That kid who was so well-behaved and on the ball was actually bored out of his mind. HOLY CRAP my fly was open all day yesterday??) I started incorporating more evaluations into the course of the year.  If I could catch my weak spots before they developed into the huge, gaping, whirlpools of incompetency of the past and learn to zip my fly…

It wasn’t always that bad.  But if I could make a connection about a kid or a class and how they learned it sure would save a lot of headaches for both of us during the year.

Trouble is, kids hate filling out the same damn evaluation form, again and again.  And I hate reading it, again and again.

So I developed short check-ins throughout the year disguised in oddball structures. (There’s an old one here.) And, happily, I discovered that in addition to giving me feedback, they provided a nice break in class routine, and were thoroughly entertaining to read.

Plus I always knew where my kids stood, so I could try to meet them right at their level.

Which still didn’t mean they liked everything I did, or thought my class was more interesting than a text (even one from their mother).  And not everyone liked me.  But I got better.

And so did they.

So, for what it’s worth in the shit-you-can-steal category:

Analogies you can use to get feedback from your kids about your class without boring the poo out of them

Everything listed below says “Spanish class” because that’s what I taught.  Change it to fit you, or else the kids in your math/science/social studies class are going to think you’ve completely lost it.  Which may indeed be the case, but there’s no need to go parading that little fact around.

Analogies to address the good: (depending on your opinion of sunsets, ice cream, and frilly pink dresses)…

  1. Spanish class is like a beautiful sunset because…
  2. Spanish class is like an ice cream sundae because…
  3. Spanish class is like a frilly pink dress because…

Does everyone think a frilly pink dress is a good thing?  No-siree-bob.  Do I still give this analogy to my beefy, uber-testosterone-y, macho, football players?  Abso-freakin-lutely.   That’s what makes for the best reading.

Analogies to identify specific activities students enjoy:

  1. (_________activity) in Spanish class is like a warm, fuzzy puppy because…
  2. (_________activity) in Spanish class is like lying in the bright sun on a tropical beach because…

I actually had to ditch #2 because it resulted in a lot of “everybody around me is speaking Spanish,” which was not exactly the thoughtful feedback I was looking for.  But I figure that those of you teaching geometry or Icelandic or something should be fine.

Analogies to address the bad: (which in education we like to reframe as “areas for growth” because we don’t believe in “bad”.  Not even after a day when I’ve booted four kids from class, gotten a nasty parent email, and sat through a mindbogglingly pointless staff meeting.  Nope, no negative here!)

  1. Spanish class is like Justin Bieber/(other pop icon kids love to hate) because…
  2. Spanish class is like spiders because…
  3. Spanish class is like a dark alley at 4 am when you’re all alone because…

Analogies to identify specific activities students hate:  (guarantee tests are going to pop up here.  1) that’s ok, because kids need to vent, too.  2) so if you’re clever, beat them to the punch and make them include specific test formats.)

  1. (_________activity) in Spanish class is like going to the dentist because…
  2. (_________activity) in Spanish class is like a booger because…

Really, a booger, a scab, anything gross will do.  Kids love gross.  They live gross.  Just don’t use “fart” because all your answers will be “it stinks.”  Not speaking from experience or anything.

Wide open analogies:

  1. If Spanish class were a Disney princess, it would be ___________ because ___________.
  2. If Spanish class were a number it would be ___________ because _________.
  3. If Spanish class were a tool it would be a ___________ because ___________.

Ones I thought were awesome but didn’t work because of too-obvious answers for Spanish class* but hopefully are awesome for you:

  1. If Spanish class were a food, it would be ___________ because ___________
  2. If Spanish class were a song, it would be ___________ because ___________
  3. If Spanish class were an article of clothing, it would be ___________ because ___________
  • Too-obvious answers:
  1. …a taco because that’s what Spanish people eat. (Also, technically incorrect.  Tacos are Mexican. Mexicans are not Spanish.  Shocking, I know.)
  2. …La Bamba, because it’s in Spanish. (Sadly, this seems to be the extent of most folks’ experience with Latin music.)
  3. …a sombrero.  Duh. (The “duh” included in the answers.)

And now…

This blog post is like an eighties ballad because I can’t think of an appropriate ending, so I’ll awkwardly just fade out…

Enjoy!

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This entry was posted in Education, Humor, Useful Junk (Ideas free for stealing) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Analogies for Class Feedback

  1. As a teacher of technology, if I can engage students then I have some serious problems. However, there are always a few who simply disassociated, even from a computer. Hopefully this will help me figure out where their minds are.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

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