Graphic: Anna Stone

Pace Academy is known for its excellent faculty, but there is always room for improvement. The Pace teachers understand this and continually strive to become better teachers. To do this, they participate in programs like My Teaching Partner, where teachers record their class and send it to their online partner who gives them constructive feedback. Teachers also attend conferences and workshops outside of school to further their professional development.

On top of this, students take surveys at the end of the year where they give feedback on the course and the teacher. However, some students feel as if their voices are not being heard or that there is no easy and safe way to express them. The Knightly News conducted a survey to find out what advice students had for their teachers and received 73 responses, depicted below.

While it was hard to categorize all the individual responses, the advice given fell into general categories and some feedback fell into multiple ones. Mainly, students want less homework or less busywork, since Pace does have an arduous workload for many courses. After that, students wanted more interactive classes with less lecture and more student participation. At 13% was student comprehension, with students commenting that teachers needed to make sure that the class understands the material before moving on to new concepts.

Tied at 5% were learning styles and better communication. Students want teachers to foster relationships with them where they feel like the teacher cares about them and their performance. Students also wanted the teachers to cater to the different kinds of student learning styles to help auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners. Close behind, students wanted teachers to be more sensitive to their feelings, especially by refraining from political jokes or shaming students for not understanding the material. Also at 4%, students wanted teachers to be available for extra help more and take as much time as a struggling student needs to understand a concept.

The “other” category, at 26%, held a variety of advice. Students recommended things like more practice problems, not giving too many assessments in one week, not using the point system, more candy incentives, and slowing down when lecturing in class.

The only time teachers get feedback from students is through the surveys at the end of the year. By that point, it is already too late to improve the class for the students of that year. In recognition of this fact, one surveyor responded that “They [teachers] could have an anonymous service kind of like how we used to have ancomm where we could give suggestions about how they could improve the class without worrying about what they will think.”

While students can tell teachers their feedback at any point in time, it can be a daunting task to the students since they do not want to offend their teachers. Luckily, some teachers love feedback and actively seek it out. “I really encourage feedback and want as much as possible,” said history teacher Caitlin Terry. “I see teaching as a two way street, mutual learning for the student and the teacher.” Ms. Terry sees criticism as a way to grow and progress, but she can only learn from criticism and not complaints. Having an anonymous service might provide valuable feedback, but the service might also be used inappropriately by students who were empowered by anonymity.

History teacher Ms. Smith is vehemently against an anonymous service for feedback. “Anonymity tends to bring out extremes and instead of finding a way to improve a situation, it often makes it worse for the teacher, coach or staff member,” said Ms. Smith. “In an era in which verifying sources is more important than ever, moving to anonymity can destroy bonds that helped students and teachers move together towards a common goal and possibly separate Pace in a way that we should not do.” Although Ms. Smith is against anonymity, she is a strong proponent of feedback and regularly asks her classes for feedback. But not all teachers do this and not all students feel comfortable producing honest answers.

Teachers may believe that students can give feedback to teachers at any point, and while this is true, most students would be daunted by the idea of giving feedback to a teacher even if it is helpful criticism. They would be too afraid to ever voice their opinion. Although many teachers like Ms. Smith and Ms. Terry encourage one-on-one communication, not all students are aware of how open-minded their teachers are and wish there was a better way to do it. “The end of the year surveys can be extremely helpful and I think most teachers work to alter certain practices if the suggestions are reasonable,” said senior Katy Leitz. “I do, however, believe that multiple surveys should be taken throughout the year so that the changes can benefit the current students.”