Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
At Impact Florida, we have been working with a fantastic group of teachers from across the state for our Solving with Students Cadre, specifically designed to improve student learning in math and aid teachers in professional learning by utilizing student feedback. We wanted to take this week to honor some of our dedicated and passionate educators by introducing you to some of our cadre participants.
Tawanna Rowe teaches 7th grade math at Crystal Lake Middle School in Broward County, and she also serves as the Math Department Chair. She participated in the cadre to gain strategies to close the achievement gap and to help improve her students’ experiences and quality of learning. As part of the cadre, Tawanna is using a free, research-based tool called Elevate, designed by PERTS, to survey her students, learn best practices to address student feedback, and then incorporate new strategies in the classroom, aligned with the Five Conditions that Support Great Teaching.
“I have really enjoyed my time collaborating with Tawanna,” said Tiana Pitts, a teacher coach from the New Teacher Center who has been working with cadre participants. “She is a reflective teacher who really cares about the kids that she serves. As we discuss her data and come up with action steps, she constantly keeps students at the center. She is the kind of teacher that every student deserves, and her natural care and skill set is what it takes to provide equity in education.”
Tawanna shared her experiences with the cadre in the following Q&A:
What interested you about this cadre and the idea of getting student feedback?
My reason for my interest is my students. Teachers naturally have input on learning, and the principal, district personnel, and parents have input on a student’s education path. However, the students’ voices, at times, can become lost in the transition.
What did the first round of survey results say, how did you feel about them, and what did you learn?
The first round of results expressed the lack of student voice. Although I feel my students have the option to speak freely in my class, these results really confirmed my reasons for joining because the students themselves felt their voice was not being heard within the classroom. As a result, this also affected the meaningful work category. Without a voice, how will the students feel their work has meaning? I have learned that the impact of the student voice affects the overall culture of the classroom.
Were students involved in interpreting the results? Why did you think it was important to engage them in what you were working on?
After I reviewed my results, I shared them with my students, and we did a whole group discussion. They were confused by some of the questions, so I allowed time for them to explain their thought process behind them. They also reviewed the results from an alternate class, and we compared the data and drew inferences about the differences in results between the two class periods. I didn’t want them to feel like the survey was taken in vain, so I felt it was important for us to review the results, and I also wanted them to know I am invested in improving their learning experience.
What are some of the strategies you’re using to improve the classroom experience?
The main strategy I’m using is designed to improve student voice. I created a choice board that gave students the opportunity to choose their math assignments. They had to pick four assignment options, out of eight choices, to complete. If a student didn’t understand where to start, they began with math vocabulary words. From there, they picked the work according to areas in which they needed more practice.
I also created a Google forms check-in experience, with the understanding that their feedback is anonymous, and I also give a weekly feedback and check-in session. Students can write about their classroom experience or any concerns they may have, and then we have a whole group discussion about responses. This strengthens the students’ trust in their teacher.
Do you think students’ experience in math class matters to their achievement?
Students, much like adults, do not perform to their maximum ability when their learning experience is tainted. The experience a student has in math class MATTERS! Since beginning the cadre, I’ve noticed an improvement on students’ test scores, and they are working harder toward academic achievement.
Thinking about past opportunities for professional learning, what has made this different?
In past professional learning, I have received great information about classroom strategies and about data and practices. But this is the first professional learning that has had a direct impact on the students. I’m able to survey the students, we have a discussion, and then, we actually adjust the learning. The students are truly at the focal point. In addition, I’m growing as an educator. This has me looking at everything through the lens of a student.
How has the coaching helped you reflect on your results and take action?
Coaching has helped me speak through the results and has also made me feel like I’m on the right track. It has helped be more open with my students. Also, while I’ve always been the popular teacher, the coaching and the surveys have also made me the impactful teacher.