What can your former students teach you?

comments Commentstotal2
This summer I am faced with having lost seven years of files on my computer and back up external hard drive. Very bizarre and unlikely, yet it happened. As school starts next week I am rewriting course guides and syllabi. This has served as a great opportunity to rewrite some projects to include more student voice.

During the school year at the end of each unit I have students evaluate and make suggestions for the project, process, and team work aspect. I then use this information to revise the unit for the following year. Students are able to inform me on how to make the information more interesting, how to better challenge them, and make information even more accessible. Not surprisingly students are very good at giving suggestions to better differentiate the learning and teaching; of course they do not know that is the term for it. Their suggestions include new challenges, how to better address the interests of all, and how to hold each team member accountable for their work.

With this new and unplanned opportunity to revise all of my coursework I am able to take the opportunity to include more reflective input from my former past students that have now graduated. I have instituted the ever so useful world of social media to reach out to former students. It was worth the chance, even if a few responded it is valuable feedback. I asked students to reflect on what they wish they would have learned in high school that would have helped them in college and beyond. This was not limited to academic information, I asked for life skills and general life lessons.

From the responses I have received students actually suggested more basic life skills than additional course content. The students stated that basic organization, stress relief techniques, time management, interdependence in team work, and more on cultural diversity were things they wish they would have learned in school. I found this interesting. These are things all teachers in all levels can integrate into courses and classroom environment.

I definitely do not wish on anyone rewriting everything for your courses all at one time, as I am having to do; I do encourage you to ask graduates or other older students what they wish they would have learned at the level you teach, and then take some time to add that to your classroom for next year. The students, current and past, have a voice- encourage them to share it. Good luck to all of you starting school in the next few weeks!

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