Teachers: You Never Know Who You Are Reaching

The Letter on Their Report Card Does Not Describe What They Learned

I always ask a survey question on my final exams, answerable in essay form, explaining what the student is taking away from my class. I want to know what lessons they learned that may have influenced them in some meaningful way. There are a few formulaic responses, but I’m often awed and humbled by many of the comments.

Of special interest to me are the perspectives of those who did not do well in my classes. I want their opinions so that I might understand better why I was unable to reach them. Perhaps there are changes that I can make to better serve my future students. Interestingly, I find that those students who did not do well are often very critical of themselves, taking full responsibility for their own grades. However, I find that even those students who did not pass did not entirely waste their time. Below is a survey answer from one of my non-passing students from this school year.

As the year tagged along I disliked you more and more every day. Since the beginning of this year I believe I have matured a lot and noticed you’re a great teacher. You do your job fairly well and you’re probably the smartest man I’ve ever met. Besides that, I feel this class had more of a meaning behind it besides history. 

You’ve made me come to realize we make history every day and we are going to be the history to our grandchildren. As the generations proceed more history will be made. Obama is the first black president. In 50 years my grandchildren will be in awe to hear about that piece of history. 

As a student I exceeded the level of laziness, but I still acknowledged your ability to teach naïve students. I learned that you don’t have to do extraneous work. Just work smart. You’re a great teacher. Thanks for everything.

As a teacher, you never know when you reach a student. Grades are poor proxies for learning.

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