Reflecting on Whale Day (or any major activity)

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Wow this is just a little late…

I realized I never posted about how we reflected on Whale Day! If you’re new to my blog and didn’t get a chance to follow the Whale Day journey, definitely go check out my Whale Day blog post!

As many of you know, Whale Day is a wonderfully, weird tradition that has occurred for over 20 years in the small town I teach in. Last year, being my first year teaching and first Whale Day, I did not effectively facilitate a feedback/reflection session with my students. Quite honestly, I was just glad I survived Whale Day on top of planning my wedding and my first year teaching! This year, I decided to be very intentional in allowing time for feedback and reflection from my students.

Start with Written Feedback:

This is super important! I really like to get feedback from my students so I can get a pulse on their feelings about what we are doing in class. Whether it’s if they are understanding the content, liking how we are doing notes, enjoying activities, or have suggestions – I like to have an idea of what’s going on! My usual go-to to get a quick informal assessment is by doing exit stickies. I give each student a post-it note and ask for them to respond with feedback and to put it on the door on their way out. This is always super easy and efficient, so I highly suggest giving it a try if you’re in need of getting quick feedback.

However for Whale Day, I wanted more thorough feedback and decided to change things up. The day after Whale Day, I started with telling the kids how PROUD I was of them! They told funny stories, reflected on how much they loved teaching the kids, and how rewarding it was. This is always my favorite part! Next, I asked them to get a piece of paper out and on the top half write down the things they liked about Whale Day, and on the bottom write the things they did not like or suggestions to improve. I kept this anonymous and asked for honest responses. I tried to make sure they understood I wasn’t going to take this personally and I was genuinely interested in feedback so I can make Whale Day better next year.

Interestingly enough, my students overwhelmingly wanted the second graders to ditch the worksheet so my students had more time to do hands-on activities with them and spend less time helping them answer questions. I LOVE THIS IDEA! I am definitely going to try and work with the 2nd grade teachers to try to implement this.

End with Talking About all the Feels:

The second half of class, we circled back to talking about how my kids FELT on Whale Day. I took a little inspo from @fivefootoneteacher with her word project that she does in English.

100% of my kids felt some sort of positive emotion – fulfilled, proud, happy, brave, confident.

The reality is, several of these kids do not have great home lives. Many of them have seen and experienced things that kids should have had to go through. Despite this, I want them to know they deserve to feel as wonderful as they did on Whale Day, every single day of their lives!

Each student got a slip of paper (I just cut white copy paper into fourths). On the front, they write the word they felt on Whale Day and decorated the paper anyway they liked. On the back they wrote their name. We posted the words towards the front of the room. I then explained that their goal should be to make sure they feel this way on a daily basis! It’s now our class goal to make sure everyone feels this way each day.

Now to be honest, I have 11 school days left and my classes are STILL not perfect. And that’s okay. Some days my students reach these goals and we have positive, uplifting classes. Some days we don’t. But what matters is that we are failing forward and moving in the right direction. Although some of my classes are still challenging, I can honestly say I am so PROUD of what they accomplished on Whale Day and that the GROWTH my kids have exhibited this year is truly humbling.

Thanks for keeping up with my teaching journey!

Jackie

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