On the first day of school I, like almost all other teachers, gather information about my students. Since my wife began teaching, we’ve combined my questions about the student as an individual with her questions about the student as a learner. Here are the questions and some of the responses. After reading these responses I was reminded how gentle, inspiring, deep, and unique my students actually are. It’s true that I did receive many blanks and partial answers too, which is normal, but I’d like to share some of the ones that reminded me of the joy of learning with and from my students.
1. Try to remember your favorite teacher. Why do you think this teacher was your favorite? Give me an example of something they did that helped you learn, feel special, have fun, or whatever.
My favorite teacher had a similar mindset to me. One of the rules of his class was to stay relaxed and collected, except when having fun.
They talked to me with respect.
With my favorite teacher, the lessons were short and to the point.
My favorite teacher always gave me a helping hand whenever I needed and answered any questions I had.
Teachers that let us work together are the best.
My favorite teacher took lots of individual time with each student.
2. If you get off-track this year and are not doing as well as you would like to, what can I say to you to bring you back to your focus? How can I remind you of what is important?
Give me food to focus me. [I really liked this one.]
By telling me that there is absolutely no better time to do well in my life.
Say, “What about college?”
By not saying anything that would bring my self esteem low. Remind me that you care about my education.
Talk to us about extra credit or that you’ll be able to help us after school.
Tell me straight how it is, but still have a two way conversation.
Just remind me to rebound and stay positive.
3. When someone is disruptive in class, how do you think the teacher should respond?
Tell them that they should have respect for themselves.
Take the child out of the room and talk to them.
Teachers should be calm and patient.
4. What is your favorite book or movie of all time? What do you like about this story – is it the strength of the main character, the surprise ending, the special effects?
I enjoy stories that make you think, ones that force you to question your actions.
The Host by Stephanie Meyer. The main character always puts others in front of herself, even in life or death situations. I want to be that selfless.
My favorite book is The Alchemist because of the adventure and mystery throughout the book.
My favorite book is What is the What? because of the courage the main character shows.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy because it is about different groups of people coming together for a common good and overcoming differences.
My Sister’s Keeper. It taught young people to try and discover who they are as an individual. This story also raised important ethical issues.
5. How do you think you learn best? Copying notes, doing something with your hands, watching a movie, making flash cards, acting something out, reading, etc. It’s okay if you don’t know.
I still haven’t found out yet.
I learn best by reading, writing and discussing topics out loud.
I learn best by doing something with my hands and making flashcards.
Something out of the ordinary and active.
[Many students wrote that they liked copying notes.]
6. Have you ever had trouble with attendance? Yes No If so, how do you think I can help encourage you to be in school?
[About half of the students put yes and the other half, no. Most who said yes did not have a way for me to help them. One said I should keep them wanting more of the class.]
7. Required materials for this class are a 3-ring binder, a spiral bound notebook, and pens/pencils. Are you able to get these or do you need me to provide them for you?
[Almost all of the students said they could get the materials. One thanked me for offering.]
8. Is there anything that would make this class hard for you? Can you think of a way I can help you with this?
I am very bright, but sometimes I lack the skills.
Multiple tests. Better test preparation.
Opinion based work can be difficult for me.
Speaking in front of the class. It makes me nervous and unfocused.
Probably homework because of sports.
I love exploring the art this world has to offer.
Essay writing bores me. Having interesting writing topics helps.
The big vocabulary, because English isn’t my native language.
Give us at least a week to get ready for a test or project.
Studying and finishing homework. Remind me to study at least 5-10 minutes each night.
9. What else can you tell me about yourself that will help me to know you and support you in this class? Or tell me something interesting about you.
I like to read.
I like creative writing.
I procrastinate, not to the point where I don’t get things done, but to the point where I stress about time.
I try hard and rarely give up easily.
I am quiet at times , but I can get distracted easily and realize someone is speaking.
I don’t like to be wrong. I get frustrated when I don’t understand something.
I panic when it comes to test taking. I am also shy and quiet, and my shell will eventually break, but my writing personality will always be contrary.
1. Your house is on fire. What one item do you take and why?
My pillow, because I’ve had it since I was a baby.
My grandmother’s photograph, because it is so important to my family and I.
I would take my dance trophies because I like to see all of my achievements.
I would grab my iPod Touch because my Kindle app holds all of my favorite books for me to read.
My blanket, because it comforts me, even though it may not seem important.
I would take my glasses, because I would fall into a ditch without them.
2. What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen done by anyone?
I’ve seen a man help a gang member get out of the gang. Now he goes to church and changed his whole life around.
One of the most inspiring things I’ve seen done is a deaf girl dance amazingly at a competition.
When something is hard, to come back harder.
Living a very simple life.
Currently, the uprising of mistreated people throughout numerous Middle Eastern nations.
People battling extremely sickening diseases.
Anyone running cross country and the whole team cheering every runner.
Firefighters, police and EMT saving people when the World Trade Center collapsed.
3. If you could go back in time and meet anyone in history, who would it be and what would you ask or do?
Martin Luther King. I would ask him what gave him the courage to stand up and speak about the issues in the world.
Hitler, to mess with his head.
I would choose to meet with Amelia Earhart and not ask for a ride. I would try to persuade her not to fly over the Pacific.
I’d meet Lincoln, because he’s mysterious.
4. What’s the most confusing thing you’ve ever thought about?
How humans evolved.
The TV show curiosity.
How the world began.
Why do they call it a hot water heater if it heats cold water?
Why is there mental illness?
Very in-depth math. Math doesn’t necessarily “make my head hurt”, but once you enter the realm of paradoxes and dividing by zero, you might as well be speaking in tongues.
Why the glue doesn’t stick to the glue stick?
5. What do you want most from life?
Self-happiness, and to those whom I care about.
To become an ER doctor.
Health and happiness.
To have a happy family and to stay athletic so I don’t fall apart when I’m older.
Success (not money or power, just success).
Simply to be happy. I don’t know how to garner that happiness. It only matters that it is prevalent in my everyday life.
To live it without regrets.
To learn and experience everything hands on.
To end up with a career I love and be a happy person.
To live, to love, and to enjoy all that there is to offer.
To give back what I get and to leave the world a better place than when I entered it.