Something that infuriates me is the notion among some teachers that student opinion is invalid. You know the type. The one at lunch always talking about dumb student x or can you believe this idiot y. You know why they dismiss the opinion of their students? They're probably afraid of the truth. Kids are very perceptive. When they walk into your classroom in August they figured out whether they like you or dislike you by the first Friday. Maybe you have some first week theatrics that fool them for a little longer, but once you've hit the third week straight of "silence! lecture! homework!" you're done. How do I know kids are perceptive? Because they tell me who they don't like. They have no qualms about it either. So if you want to improve your classroom management, it starts by acknolwedging that your students have a valid opinion. Who are the best people to ask if an activity was interesting? The kids who did it! The students in the room should have a sense that you WANT to do things that are interesting and that their help is very important to improving those things.

As an end of the semester gimme, I threw this on the second to last Pre-Cal test of the semester:


It accomplishes a few things: gets them to internalize their participation/performace, provide feedback on the systems I have in place, and help me learn if there's a genre of activities I should explore further. Again, the kind of person who would never do this is scared that the kids don't like them. If you've hit this point, you should probably reconsider how you develop your relationship with your students. A strong relationship with a student will infinitely reduce behavior issues. So tell your kids they matter, acknowledge them as a young adult who has a say in his/her education.

The end result of this experiment? Like bad teacher feedback, they were extremely willing to tell me what's what. Activities we did outside were a hit, activities that involved real world measurements as problem inputs were a hit, and they found our iPad usage thus far to be novel and interesting. A couple party poopers said "nothing" or "everything" but the experiment was a success.

Another way to foster strong relationships with kids is to show them that math class need not be a 100% serious house of no fun. So the next week on their final final test of the semester, the topic had this to offer:


Put simply: the results were hilarious, kids stories often end with "then everyone dies!" which is odd, and oh yeah, the results were hilarious. I read select stories out loud without identifying the authors.

Don't treat the warm bodies in the seats like a burden, use them as a resource. They will tell you anything you want to know.

AuthorJonathan Claydon