For many districts in the country, it is Fall Break, which marks the halfway point in the semester and a perfect time for a check-in. Perhaps, check-ins are new for you. We can be accustomed to moving full steam ahead with our own plans, dedicated to meeting our school’s goals or federal guidelines. However, focusing too much on the end results can cause us to overlook the everyday needs of our students, colleagues and ourselves.

According to the Berkley Center for Teaching & Learning and Yale’s Poorvu Center, there are four open-ended questions that teachers can ask students in a paper or digital survey – or  group discussion – that encourage Self-Awareness and Honesty:

  • What is working well for you in this class? What are you struggling with? 
  • What is helping you learn? What is not working? 
  • What could the instructor change to improve your learning experience in this class? 
  • What could you do differently to improve your learning experience in this class?

Remember the key to positive change is taking the feedback to heart and making the necessary adjustments. Although you may not be able to adjust to each particular need, pay attention to patterns that you are seeing across the students in your class. Focus your time and energy for improvement there. Please note, if you choose to have a discussion, you may need to prompt quiet students to respond. Their voices are important too.

Additionally, take time to consider your own needs. Making it to this point is an accomplishment, yet you have seven more months in this school year. Ask yourself the following questions related to mental health, school culture, classroom practice, and personal growth:

  • What am I doing now to maintain my work/life balance? What can I work on to achieve more balance?
  • Do students have a voice in my classroom and my school? How can offer more opportunities for choice?
  • What evidence do I have that students are learning and growing in my classroom?
  • What new skills or strategies would I like to try, employ, or learn about in the coming months?

Again, the application of what you learn during your reflection is imperative. For a more extensive battery of questions, read this article from the Resilient Educator.

Two of the most important questions you can ask your colleagues are the following:

  • How is your heart today?
  • How can I help?

At first, your colleague may not know how to answer. They may be surprised that you even asked. Give them time to consider and keep showing up with the same questions. Once they know that you are sincere, they will start answering.

Not only do mid-semester check-ins provide the opportunity for course correction academically, but they also offer a bridge between teacher and student as well as teacher and colleague. We are all on the same team, working for the success of our students – helping them to become happy, healthy and contributing members of our big world.


About the author


Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.