This year I finally listened to my students and what they had been saying for years. I heard their voice and decided to do something about it. It led to one small change that made a great impact on my teaching, my students’ learning, and, perhaps most importantly, our emotional and mental wellbeing.
One small change made a great impact on my teaching, my students’ learning, and, perhaps most importantly, our emotional and mental wellbeing.
It began with one conversation we had at the start of the yer around wellness. I always focus on building a culture of trust founded on relationship throughout the first weeks of class. I take my time getting into a course so that we, collectively, set the stage for learning. I asked my students to tell me about the worries of being a student and any stress that they felt they were under. My intention was to let them know I care about more than their marks, that I care about them as people, emotionally and mentally healthy people at that.
The conversation was lively! I was incredibly thankful for their honesty and vulnerability. Some of what they shared was:
Sometimes I have a quiz or test every day of the week.
We are stressed out to the max.
Sometimes if I know there’s nothing due in class, I’ll skip that class to study for something I have due in another class.
And finally: why don’t teachers communicate with one another and plan their due dates and test days together?
So I decided to do something about it. I decided that I needed to commit myself to helping my students navigate our hectic system because the system itself was not going to change for us.
I invested in a desktop calendar (thanks Mel!), the old school tearaway kind that allows you to write and plan out your month at a glance at your desk. Rather than use these on my desk to help me plan out my weeks and months ahead, I would hang them on our classroom wall and ask student to help plan our time together with a specific eye on assessments and due dates. I provided sticker dots and proposed that students stick one on days that they are busy, that they have a quiz or test in another class, that they have an assignment due, or that they just anticipate would be a stressful time. This is what a few months looks like: