Student attendance, participation and engagement. My students have always impressed me (for the most part, after they are teenagers!) with their attendance, participation and engagement. In reality, I don't need to ask them if they're engaged and thus learning, I can see it, hear it and feel it. Teachers know! For a number of years, it has been very obvious to me for a number of years that student attendance is the most powerful indicator of the extent to which students value and "rate" their classes. Initially, it is not uncommon for students to seek out learning spaces and classes with teachers they like due to the non-academic freedom and lack of course hardness. After a while however, students seek out classes that challenge them in the now and will prepare them more for the future in and out of the classroom. To this extent, I have always been conscious of my classes being respected for their future value while not necessarily being liked in the interim. I also endeavour to make the course/class valuable and academically enjoyable to the students not due to the teaching personality in front (although this does play a part) but the quality of the learning experience, empowerment and learning space. Let's be honest, some students don't fit with "school" and so seek to withdraw from all their learning environments. For the most part however, and evidence supports this, many students vary their attendance from class to class, often seeking to spend more time in classes that don't have a one size-fits-all approach and prioritise student choice and learning over teaching. To be blunt, if students are in school but not in your class, this should speak volumes that you the teacher simply must hear. Is the work too hard, too removed from their context, or do they simply feel like a passenger in the learning journey?
At Aorere College, we have awesome teachers and simply amazing students. Yet occasionally I am surprised when I visit a class of students that are involved in a collaborative and/or group activity and some students (despite the appeal of the activity to this old campaigner) are still sitting on the outer and in the class but not in the activity itself. As a a huge sports fan, I used to loved Physical Education (PE), the theory and of course the practical undertakings. Yet often when I see classes of this subject playing tag or netball some students are sitting on the sidelines often presenting a visage of almost depression. I find this occurrence even more intriguing when this class in question is not a compulsory subject but one they have chosen to be a part of. A number of students particularly in terms of senior PE classes severely underestimate how rigorous the academic elements of the course and severely overestimate just how much play they will be exposed to. Furthermore, students in subjects where their efforts are clearly visible to classmates need to feel comfortable in this visibility and have an allowance of student agency in terms of participation levels. The choice of participation levels to some extent has been the key to the success of my English class' #VIP sessions which involves the whole class and all teachers in attendance every Thursday lesson starting the period dancing for one minute to a student-chosen song. Students by collective agreement have to be involved but the level of dancing is completely up to them and no recording or criticism is allowed.
It is one thing to have students in you class, it is another to have students in your class participating, it is a whole new level to have students rate your class through engagement. Now we're not just talking semantics here. Engagement over participation is about ownership over mere reception. When students are engaged, l believe students are rating positively the learning and indeed the class for its current and future benefits. Experienced teachers know that engaged students are the ones that don't want to leave the learning-in-process, let alone the class at its timed conclusion. The engaged students literally run to the class and grudgingly trudge away, almost desperate for the next learning episode. I know that my students are engaged and appropriately rate my class when they are frustrated if I don't get there on time or change the learning-in-play without their input and consideration. The ultimate way to qualify just how engaged your students are, is to be aware of the student leadership in and around the learning. If the students are merely doing the work, to me that's participation, if they're questioning the nature of the work or individually owning and extending the learning, that's engagement. The number one indicator that students rate your class and in the inherent learning? Academic questioning and reflections by the students to you and to each other. This is where students rate learning through ceasing to be mere consumers and increasingly become the producers and consumers of their own learning.
In reality, all teachers want to be respected and liked for the learning they provide to their students. We want attending, participating and engaged students increasingly leading their own learning and futures. They are the stakeholders, we need to see them in effect as our customers. If these customers don't like our service or products, they will go elsewhere. And as we know, the customer is always right, whether we like it or not!