The One Thing - From A Student's Perspective

“I want to do one thing and do it well.”  - Jan Koum

Yesterday I posed two questions for my students to answer . . . .

1)  What one thing makes you feel happy to spend time in a classroom?

2) What one thing makes you a successful learner?

To help students honestly share their feelings, I told them their responses could be anonymous. I was eager to read their responses to these questions.  Having a student teacher, I was looking forward to sharing these thoughts with her as she plans both her interactions and her instruction with 30 very busy 4th graders.  I was also curious to learn their responses for my own learning.  While I had an expectation of what they might write, I was looking forward to learning if their responses matched my predictions.

Needing a way to categorize their answers, I started a tally sheet.  The response to the first question fit into a theme.  The majority of the answers had to do with an outside force – friends, teachers, and classroom atmosphere.  The need for good friends was the most popular response, followed by a classroom with a calm, happy and kind teacher.  The word kind was somewhat of a happy surprise.  What a good reminder that kindness is valued by all people, no matter their age.  The most mentioned word used to describe a classroom atmosphere was positive – students appreciated an environment where questioning was valued.

It was time to move on to the second question: What one thing makes you a successful learner?  The answers to this question were evenly split between both external and internal forces.  The external forces were:  I learn best in a classroom with a happy teacher and where I receive encouragement to keep trying.  The remaining answers were more centered on personal reflection:  In order to learn I need to listen and pay attention.  Many students commented on their own learning style – In order to be a successful learner I need time to practice and I need to not be rushed.  One girl wrote: I need to learn things in steps.  I need to be taught the easy steps first, then have it get harder and harder.  Wow – what an insight into the concept of scaffolding.

This simple activity has given me a new understanding of my students’ personalities, needs, and learning styles.  While I began this exercise as a way to benefit a student teacher, it has also proved valuable for this veteran teacher. 

I encourage you to ask your students these two basic questions and see how they respond.  We would love to hear your results.

Happy Writing,

Darlene and Terry