Exactly what do SLA students think about Narratives?
The feedback from teachers written towards students as individuals at the end of the first and third quarters of each school year garners some strong reactions from the student body. They’re often a love/hate thing, students either anxiously look forward to or barely acknowledge them (or both).
The overall consensus seemed to be that students feel narratives lose their value as students get closer to graduating.
For freshmen, the process is entirely new, and the write-ups make a strong impression. As quarter one came to an end, a number of incoming freshman posted photos of their narratives on snapchat with soft-hearted messages of appreciation inspired by the insightful and generous words from their teachers.
“All of my narratives so far were meaningful to me because I saw that all my teachers appreciated who I am in class and my work ethic, said Freshman Londyn Edwards.
“I pride myself in being a good student and to see that being appreciated was amazing and fulfilling to me.”
History Teacher Matthew Baird said, “It’s crucial that as a school we look at students as individuals and not just grades. My hope is that both faculty and students appreciate narratives as being part of that process.”
“It’s important that students get more than numbers for feedback, it adds different pieces to being a student and a learner,” said English Teacher Joshua Block.
Sophomore Horace Ryans agreed with this assessment.
“I feel like my teachers make an effort to communicate and express their concern to us. Transitioning from a freshman to a sophomore, my narratives have gotten better as my teachers obtain a greater understanding of who I am as a student,” Ryans said.
The upperclassmen interviewed, however, did not feel so rosy about the narratives.
“Not to call any teacher out, but I really hate it when teachers start talking about things that don’t relate with my academics directly. I feel like my narratives are about 85 percent accurate,” said Junior Messele Asfaw.
“I think the reason upperclassmen may be less interested or excited for narratives is because they’re used to reflecting on their own by now. It’s all information that they already know,” said Art Teacher Marcie Hull.
Junior Lucien Hearn affirmed this mindset.
“When receiving my narratives for the first quarter, I had little reaction because it was standard advice,” he said.
Students also get tired of being corrected.
“I think teachers tend to overreact about certain things because they have the power to do so. For example a student being on their phone a few times during the class, they make it seem like you’re always on your phone,” said Senior Imani Williams.
“Older students may care less because they see the process of grades and narratives of further defining who they are and they think it’s all been settled but in fact it hasn’t. They don’t see them as a tool to improve,” added Mr. Baird.
So if narratives feel less meaningful to upperclassmen, should they change in some way? A lack of personalization is a big complaint that surrounds narratives. What would make them more meaningful?
“Sometimes, writing them can be challenging. Due to the amount of students it feels like I’m saying the same thing but having to word it differently,” said Spanish Teacher Joselyn Hernandez.
“The most meaningful narratives to me are those that have included helpful criticisms from teachers on how to better succeed in class for the upcoming quarters because then I can set goals for myself,” said Senior Lotus Shareef-Trudeau.
Asfaw agreed with this statement.
“My advisor gave me one that was very meaningful. It contained what I did well, what I could do better, and what he likes about me as a student as well as what he likes about me personally,” he said.
Block revealed his working solution for narratives.
“I find it helpful when older students contribute to writing the narrative as they find it more useful for improvement,” he said.
More teachers have moved toward this blended-writing system in the past year, where the student contributes at least part of the narrative.
It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue or even grow. The next narratives will be written at the end of the third quarter, in late April 2018.