U.S. History Student Feedback

a U.S. history whiteboard from March
As I explained in my last post, I value listening to student feedback. Better late than never, now I'll share the comments from my U.S. history students I received at the end of the year.

I asked the students for responses to two questions. I'll list each in turn, followed by what the students wrote me. (I have edited the students' writing very lightly, leaving wording and grammar untouched.)

What is one lesson you learned or skill you practiced in U.S. History that you expect to use in the future—either in the rest of high school or elsewhere?
  • I used the skill of speaking in front of a group. This helped because you have to do that in a job later.
  • I can kill commies with ease.
  • I learned to pay more attention and turn work in on time.
  • The interview of Vietnam War with somebody who lived in during the war.
  • Upstreaming, historiography
  • I learned that slaves were held rudely against their wills.
  • I learned how to be a better writer and analyzer of history. I aspect to use it in the future by using it in college. I also learned upstreaming which will help me look back at history.
  • to pay more attention to dates and names of battles
  • I didn’t learn much. honestly.
  • I learned how to correctly write essays.
  • Debating I would say—and my English
  • I learned to organize my essays better.
  • I learned skills that could be useful in court. The mock trials taught me a lot that I didn’t know.
  • Well I am horrible at final taking obviously and not to smart IK a lot about reconstruction + depression though!
  • I learned to improve my writing and research skills from my time of learning United States History class by Peter Stanton.
  • Interviewing techniques for getting information from people about their past experiences.
some of my students' drawings
for Cold War vocabulary
What is one thing Mr. Stanton should consider if he teaches U.S. history again? (something to improve, do again, etc.)
  • Be more assertive in getting people’s attention. But how you presented the curriculum was awesome. Good job.
  • More movies.
  • I think you did great teaching because you teach more like person to person instead of teacher to student. Easier to learn like that. Thank you Mr. Stanton! It will be nice to see you next year!
  • Watch more movies of history and explain better before watch the movie.
  • More games (Jeopardy, etc.) more movies, Saving Private Ryan
  • Please teach it again!
  • I think you should consider doing more tests rather than writing assignments all the time.
  • to spend a longer amount of time on a topic. For example we only spent 2-3 days on the Hawaiian annexation and I really don’t have a clue what it is. Also more trials and less “games.”
  • Mr. Stanton should consider less writing projects! There was to many essays! LOL
  • I feel like this class was a practice for you. This class was everything NOT to do. Give next year more essays and projects to do. More interacting
  • I think we should have more debate, but once we did there was a hell of a lot of noise, so if you could get them to stay quiet it would be better. [translated by me from Danish]
  • If you teach U.S. history again you should learn to control the class better.
  • He should consider writing reminders on the board so we can remember when things are due.
  • Control the class better not be grump struck just bit more control you fell.
  • I must ask you to keep you class under control. I understand that you got a class of students that might be “sub-par” but keep them in line while still being the cool teacher.
  • Working on strategies for class room control. Sorry we were so loud and crazy.
two teams' timeline review
work before the final
I taught one period of U.S. history with twenty-nine students, but there were many absent on the day I asked these questions, so there are only sixteen responses to each each. Nevertheless, I feel these are pretty representative of the range of feedback you can get from students: Some were vague, others particular, some constructive and others not.

Perhaps inevitably, quite a few students had preferences or recommendations that directly conflicted with those of others: Some want more essays and structure, others want less writing and more freedom, etc. etc. Many teachers might see that as all the more reason not to solicit student feedback. You certainly can't please all the students, given their varied desires, and why would you try to please them anyway? A teacher should know what's best, and the students aren't education experts at all, right?

Well, I disagree. Sometimes a student's feedback really does make a difference. I think my favorite from this class was "you teach more like person to person instead of teacher to student." I hadn't really thought about what I was doing in exactly that way before, but I realized that was exactly what I had been aiming for. That sort of heartwarming affirmation—along with the tips and critiques to remember for next time—makes it all worthwhile.