A Letter

I have one senior in geometry (her third time taking geometry due to attendance issues in past years).  Senior finals were this week but since she was the only senior in the class she asked if she could write me a letter rather than take an exam.  I was happy to oblige.  I was more than happy with the results which included an analysis of what she learned and the class, it was remarkably similar to the reflection I will ask all the students to do after the exam.  A few of my favorite lines:

“Believe it or not, this is the first time that geometry has clicked in my head.  I must admit its still not my favorite but that’s alright.  Whenever I needed help you were right there to offer it.”

“I like how you did a lot of activities.”  “You are a hands on teacher and I think that is what makes learning a little easier for kids.”

“We could work with partners whenever we wanted and you were okay with that.  I think working with partners is very helpful.”

“I especially liked how you ALWAYS went over homework.  It’s nice to know that we don’t just do it for no reason.  You take the time out of your class to make sure we understood everything we had to do at home.”

We, as teachers, spend a lot of our time thinking about how to structure class, what aspects to emphasize and what gets cut if there are time constraints.  I knew these decisions affected students, but this letter made me realize just how aware (some? most?) students are that we make such decisions and interpret our values based on our procedures.  I’m impressed that these messages aren’t implicit to all students but that at least some kids are explicitly aware of the pedagogical decisions we make.

And finally,

“I hope you’ll come to graduation to see me walk that stage because that’s what I plan to do.  Even if you can’t make it I know that you are supportive and proud.”

Absolutely true.  So very proud.  And excited to be at graduation watching all of my students walk that stage.

3 thoughts on “A Letter

  1. I love this post. I teach geometry, I love geometry, and I try to impart that passion to my students. But the aspects of your teaching which made the biggest impression on this student, and helped her succeed – the partners, the homework review, the activities – these are the things that fall by the wayside in the race to finish the curriculum before the state exam (NYS Regents, in my case). I am something of a maverick in my school, with my patty paper, flat compasses and interactive notebooks, and it’s good and IMPORTANT to hear that this makes the difference for some students. And reading this as the year ends – it helps me focus on where I want to go next year… Thanks!

    • Thank you! Both for your comment and for doing the right thing by your students, as best you can, despite outside pressure to do otherwise. Patty paper is awesome, I need to make use of it more often.

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