At the end of the year I asked students to reflect on the year. The answers were interesting.

Note: Last March 13th my school went into a “Distance Learning” setting that lasted through April, May, and the first week of June when school ended. We began school in a Hybrid Setting with students attending 2 days in person and having 3 “virtual” days that were asynchronous. In January the school installed Plexiglass and students returned to a full in person setting with masking and social distancing expectations. Then in early May the masking mandate was removed and about half of my Junior class took the option to work as virtually as “independent learners”. This reflection form was completed after the students completed their End of Course examination which the state made optional but our district required but told students that the score could not harm their Semester final average. 54 students completed the reflection and these are my observations about their statements

Here are a few of the questions and some general conclusions

What hidden superpower did you discover within yourself this year?

I was surprised by how many students mentioned “perseverance” or “working through things”. Several mentioned time management or learning study skills. The pandemic learning seems to have forced students to work more independently and though some saw this as an opportunity it seems like most felt this was a grind that needed to be overcome not a positive learning experience. That sounds like an obvious statement but I have started to see the idea of keeping a large amount of virtual learning options open. A NYC mayor candidate tried to use the ability to use virtual learning tech as a way to get 300-400 kids into a classroom! That type of virtual and tech based experience does not seem to be what these kids wanted.

What was your biggest “kryptonite” this year? (the thing that made it most difficult to succeed)

The most common answer – Procrastination. Many used the term “time management” or “keeping up with due dates” which I interpret as another way to say dealing with procrastination. Another common answer was frustration over boring low level note taking activities on digital recordings. That seemed to be a fairly common use of technology with most of their classes. A couple mentioned mental health or just health issues. This was anonymous and hope these folks know where and how to get help.

We started off the year in “hybrid mode”. What was something that you learned about the way you learn from that experience?

Overwhelming response – “I learn better in person” or some variation on that theme. There were a few that prefered the hybrid model but these were mostly based on the ability to sleep in or be by friends and family. These responses didn’t mention any educational benefit. From my experience with these young adults many of them took on extra hours at work. My guess is that the extra income helped too.

What was your favorite part of this class? (come on there was something… right?)

Boss Fights, XP Grading, my enthusiasm for History, Civil Rights Timeline

What suggestions can you give me as we enter another uncertain year next year?

#1 – No more digital notes.

#2 – keep playing the games and maintain the passion

#3 – Stricter deadlines (I’m not going to listen to this one).

This comment got me: I think you did a really good job. Honestly, you were one of the teachers that made things smooth and not so scary.

What was the most important thing that you learned from my class? It can be about yourself, the content, society, my sense of humor, etc…

Here are a few of the more interesting responses (slightly excerpted)

  • …how black Americans were scammed out of houses in good neighborhoods merely because of the color of their skin.
  • …it was in this class that i discovered that I wanted to become a history teacher!
  • That history doesn’t always have to be taught at a certain level or pace and you can still learn it without the stress of grades all the time.
  • I learned that with a flexible and adaptable schedule I learned very well, and was able to comprehend better than with a very rigid schedule, that had strict regulations
  • I learned that learning shouldn’t be a competition but should just be about what we need to go over and that standardized tests are made for us to fail
  • I thought it was extremely significant that you incorporated your own theme and fun activities into your teaching. As a result, some might consider your class to be fun and enjoyable. Don’t get a big head. I think that bringing fun into the classroom is very important, especially in college level classes, because it will encourage students to want to be in class and learn.

What’s something about COVID learning that you hope continues?

  • Something that I hope continues from COVID learning is more information being shared. More teachers posted content both online and lectured about it in person, which was a big help. What I did not like, however, was the extra work.
  • just don’t get in peoples bubble
  • Schools have been putting in more effort to providing students with more resources like school supplies, tutoring, and more. I think this should continue.
  • Several variations on this: The [leniency] of teachers. How they listen and actually help you through it because they know it’s a bit of a struggle.

Several students also requested that online classes and virtual options continue to be an option for students that need extra help or need health or mental health breaks.

And I think my favorite quote:

For a student entering YOUR History class next year… “oh boy, get ready; but most importantly, do not think it is ‘weird’ to have fun and engage in the activities that Mr. Powley creates.”