I recently received a letter from a former student who is now in sixth grade. She began with a question: “Did you ever have that teacher that inspired you to do things, who always helped you when you thought you couldn’t do something? Well, I did!” She went on to explain how she had previously despised reading and thanked me for motivating her to read in our second grade class. She went on to say, “One of my favorite series you ever read to us was The Cricket in Times Square.” I am so grateful to have received this letter, but how can I count on receiving both positive feedback and input about what I can do better? Student feedback helps me reflect on what I do and how I teach in my classroom. The answer came to me in the form of the Tripod survey, which I was able to administer with my students last year. The survey covered 7 critical areas of my teaching—Tripod’s 7Cs.

After I administered the survey, I received a private report. The feedback from the survey was both expected and surprising; my students stated that they know I care for them, but based on their feedback, I decided I could do more work to improve on the Control “C.” The students were asked to indicate how much they agreed with the following statement: “My classmates act the way my teacher wants them to.” I was surprised to see their perspective—many students disagreed. For nine years my class has included students with a variety of learning needs. Working with the diversity of learners in my class has tempered my handling of certain classroom behaviors.

As a result of the survey feedback, I have recalibrated my management of classroom participation. Over the years, I had relaxed my policy allowing students to call out without raising their hands. Through the children’s eyes, this may have been perceived as a lack of classroom management. Reflecting on their feedback, I researched how to inspire participation while maintaining control. I have implemented a new method with success. I hand out three Popsicle sticks to each student, and students hand one of these back to me each time they participate. After three times, students raise their hands, and I give them more. This approach is perceived as fun, and encourages the desired behavior without intimidating the less confident learner.

Often teacher evaluation fails to generate useful guidance on future professional development, but the Tripod student survey gave me some specific feedback about an area where I could improve my practice and therefore my students’ achievements. Through my students’ eyes I am able to see where I need to improve or commit to more development. The survey has become a valuable tool for me to gauge my teaching in a meaningful, relevant, and specific way.