I have a tradition of asking my students for a feedback in the end of each semester. It looks like this:
I prepare a nice envelope for their “letters”, give all of students pieces of paper and ask them to reply to the question “What do you think about “skills” lessons?”. That’s it. The topic is very wide and if they want more explanations, I ask them to share their ideas and feelings about our lessons, the course book, me as their teacher and anything else they have to tell about the subject. To give them more freedom of self-expression I give them one in a semester time opportunity to write to me in their mother tongue.

When they are finished, they fold the papers and put them into the envelope. I never give any comments in class about the messages as sometimes it can be a personal writing, when students share their real views once and just for me. Making it public can kill the whole idea of “being heard” and “having a personal connection.

What do I learn from their letters? A lot.

Usually I get a bunch of meaningless papers with “I love my teacher” which in most cases I just thrown at and put aside. They do not mean much as students are just being uncomfortable to share much and trying to sound nice to me. But if most of papers include something like “The lessons are fun”, “The teacher is nice” – well, take it as a compliment and as an average temperature in class.

Negative or constructive feedback is what I am looking for. It can be tough to deal with for the first time but it’s the most valuable thing you can ever get from your students (after their academic success). This is exactly what will help you to improve as a teacher and find little keys to better classroom management and lesson planning. I’ll give just a few examples to show what can be a golden grain go be found between the lines:

  • The lessons are nice but we have too much writing. It’s nice when we do listening or watch videos. (Read: add more listening to lessons. Very straightforward, thank you for this).
  • We are getting bored because teacher can not keep all of us under control. (Read: make lessons with more individual approach, it will also improve classroom management as students would feel more important and get attention).
  • The book is boring. (Read: look for extra materials or re-invent the book leaving just topics and materials, make your own tasks).
  • At first I didn’t like skills lessons but now I started to like it. (Read: think over your classes from the beginning of semester and try to find what has changed. Keep it on. Think what have you stopped doing and don’t come back to it again).
  • I want to answer and cannot. My teacher thinks that I am bad. (Read: maybe I always ask same students or don’t give enough time to think. Work on your “waiting time” and give everyone a chance to take part even if it will take more time. Raise students’ confidence and they will be grateful.)
  • Teacher does not recognise students and me. (Read: it’s time to learn names. And call students by names, not mixing up Ada and Eda. Having a list of names will help as well. To give a plus/tick/points you will have to go with names and do it one by one. Obvious? Yes, but many students still feel like being lost in a crowd).
  • I hate skills lesson. (Read: well… It shouldn’t be a surprise for you, should it? But if you get more than one of those notes, it’s time to think over the whole lesson. Look for the reasons: is it the student with zero English who is just super very bored? Ok, let’s add activities that they can do without English to feel successful (how about arts and crafts or running dictation? If it’s a generally good student, dig deeper, talk to other teachers, maybe even to the student in private. Is it boring? Too easy? Too difficult? Is the lesson material duplicate some other classes? Are you too tough on kids?).

Whatever feedback you get, don’t be sad about it. Take as a one and only opportunity to get the real opinion of your students about the lesson. It is very valuable. It will definitely make you a better teacher and will help to build rapport. If you put advice in practice you will also get extra points from your students for being responsible and caring.

Give it a try and share with other teachers.