Yesterday I had my second lunch meeting with seven of last year's sixth grade students. I had given them a questionnaire to fill out prior to coming for lunch and today I read through them.
The lunch, itself, was just another means of thanking the students for helping me and to give us an opportunity to talk casually about our experiences last year. I think what I got out of it most, is that my students feel a bond having spent a year together (prior to the new seventh graders that have joined them this year), and have an assortment of collected memories that bring them joy.
The group I met with yesterday consisted of six boys and one girl (last year our classroom was made up of 15 boys and one girl). I attempted to probe a bit deeper on the questions I asked on paper, but it was the students' lunch time and it was obvious they needed a break. Allowing them to just toss memories back and forth seemed to be the right thing to do.
I began thinking that, perhaps, we needed a new ritual - an "reunion" of all of the sixth grade students from the inception of its first year at TPJA (Tempe Preparatory Junior Academy). It would be fun to exchange memories of that first year and chart their growth. Last year, at the end of the year, I had put together a photo albumn of our year together. It might be fun to add to that year, after year.
This year, all twenty of last year's sixth graders stayed. I heard one may be leaving this year because her family has moved to North Scottsdale and the commute is tough for her folks. It makes me wonder how many of this year's sixth grade students will remain at TPJA next year.
At any rate, I would have to say that the questionnaires I gave last year's sixth grade students were revealing only to the point that it was evident they didn't take a lot of time "digging deeper" - a phrase that we used again and again last year (I even have a shovel in my classroom that says as much). However, I did get some decent feedback on the rituals we incorporated into our classroom - enough to make me think that ritual can and does lead to deeper learning and connections.
I also feel like each time I gather a new piece of information, I am moving one step forward in my thesis project.