In which I forgot to put the headline in and now the url is gonna be all dumb and stuff

I have an awful lot of teacher talk types of posts sloshing around in my head right now, and I’m not a hundred percent sure if any of it is done sloshing yet. Today was one of those days where after the school day I have half an hour to get home so that I can go to a two-hour meeting, and at this meeting we were shown some data from our building that has me alarmed. Quite alarmed, in fact. Not from an instructional or a learning standpoint, but from a building culture standpoint– and, to make things worse, I have no idea whether the data we’ve been shown is actually worth a damn or not. Basically, my kids appear to believe they attend the worst school in the history of schools, and as an instructor at that school I am interested in several things:

  1. I am interested in my school not being the worst school in the history of school;
  2. I am interested in my kids having better feelings about the building they go to school at;
  3. I am interested in knowing whether they actually believe that the school is the utter, irredeemable shithole that the data is indicating they think they attend;
  4. I am interested in figuring out, if the answer to #2 is yes, why their perception the building and mine is so different; and
  5. I am interested in figuring out what role the factually inaccurate student statements play in all of this. For example: students reported overwhelmingly that they were in physical danger in school and that fights happened regularly. They simply don’t. They reported that students frequently show up at school events and at school under the effects of alcohol and drugs. Also no. They reported that students carrying guns or knives was common at school. Also no!
  6. Some responses were simply bewildering. 3/4 of the students or so disagreed with the statement “My teachers let me know when I am misbehaving.” Seriously?

Now, I actually have a ton of reasons to suspect this data is unreliable. We have responses from less than a third of the kids in the building. The surveys were taken in December, when they weren’t in school. Sixth-grade students, in particular, hadn’t even physically been to school for more than a handful of days to ascertain the building climate in the first place! A bunch of them appear to simply have gone through and hit “disagree” on everything. One of us went through and looked at the data from other schools, which we also have access to, and reported that they all look astonishingly similar, which is suspect. But, like, one figures that if the kids were invested in school in the way we want them to be, they’d probably have taken the survey seriously, right?

Is there a way to craft some sort of measure for student satisfaction at their school that they either 1) will actually be invested in reporting honestly on and/or 2) can trick them into reporting more honestly? And how much of #5 up there represents the kids’ actual perception of the school, regardless of whether it’s “true” or not? After all, it’s kind of problematic to tell someone “Yes, you do feel safe at school” when they don’t, and as long as we’re talking about climate there really isn’t much difference between the kids thinking that everyone nearby is packing a weapon and it actually being true.

Also a useful question, tying in with all the middle schools being so similar: how much of this is my building and how much of this is a combination of covid-frustration and American culture in general hating education?

And I haven’t even started talking about discipline data. Lemme give you a preview of another post that’s rattling around. The following two sentences are both true:

I have only written up black males this year; and

I have only done three office referrals this year, and one of the three was on behalf of another teacher for a situation I wasn’t involved in.

But we’ll get to that later.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.