Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And the Survey Says...

My kiddies were supposed to take the Learning Environment survey today. (No, OF COURSE I don't mind that this took up valuable learning time. Pas du tout.) Since I didn't have much choice in the matter, I walked around the room and watched them fill it out. I fiercely resisted (most of) my urges to "correct" or "clarify" what they answered, even though I didn't like some of what I saw. I tried only to speak if I saw them not following the directions or answering a factual question incorrectly. I had to restrain myself. We want them to be honest. And since I teach middle school, I'm one of only at least half a dozen adults my students see on a daily basis, so I had no way of knowing if they were thinking of me when they were answering the questions. Still, I was equal parts heartened and disheartened by their answers. Here's a sampling:
  • Almost every student "disagreed" or "strongly disagreed" with the idea that students who excel academically are respected by their peers. (Okay, boo.)

  • Almost every student "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that the adults they work with know their names and who they are. (This seems like a fairly low bar to clear, but still, a good sign.)

  • More students than I would have imagined said that students were often bullied or harassed at our school. (Eesh. Then again, it is a middle school.)

  • Most students "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the twin ideas that they have to work hard to get good grades and that teachers do a good job of helping them to succeed. (Score!)

  • But what was saddest to me was how few students said they felt comfortable sharing either academic or personal struggles with an adult in our school. I really want kids to feel comfortable talking to me, and I try to show, as often as possible, that if they're honest and open with me, I can meet them halfway.
I don't know how I feel about these surveys being administered, in school or otherwise. I suppose it's a good thing to learn how students and parents feel about their schools. Oh, I can point out the various reasons that individual or groups of students or parents would be biased, but that's in any survey. And I suppose, too, that I'll have to devote a posting to how I took my own survey, which I have not gotten around to yet. (In a fit of pique a few days ago, I filled out my own survey entirely honestly, only to have hit some sort of "network error" near the end, so it was never submitted. This I take as a clear sign from the universe to reconsider.)

Maybe next time, though, I just won't watch. Then I won't have to feel my heart twist as I watch my kids say there's no one in their school they can trust, and wonder where, as in so many other places, I have gone wrong this year.
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