08 April, 2013

Tell Me How You Really Feel...

The past few weeks my school, like most others, has been preparing to give the school environment surveys to students, parents, and teachers. This year, for the first time, I have found that this process is far removed from honest, useful feedback.

Teachers were given some time to fill out surveys in the past few days and several were actually laughing out loud at certain questions. Do I believe the negative responses will change things? After reviewing results from last year's survey, administration reminded us not to fill out the surveys if we had a bad day because the results affect the students and teachers who may come to us next year. I can think of a few things that changed because of the results from last year's survey, including more, informal surveys given throughout the year.

Before students were given their surveys, teachers were provided with a handful of lesson plans to do during advisory that would address the areas we did poorly on last year. These lessons were less than half a page long and riddled with grammatical and logistical errors. Several teachers expressed that they were offended by these lessons considering how much effort most teachers at the school put into their own lesson plans. Interestingly, my own students responded well to these lessons. They offered some interesting insights about why they respect certain teachers ("They went to good colleges" being the most surprising answer) and what they notice about the school environment (the bathrooms are a mess, half of the class could not name 3 locations of trash cans). Other teachers reported that these lessons spiraled into gripe sessions for students with no acknowledgement of student ownership of the school. I think that this tells us a lot about what our school community is or isn't like, but I am in no place to make any changes, especially as so many people are in their end of the year mentality.

What I've learned in the last month of survey prep- we care what surveys say but we work to influence results (optics, as Olivia Pope might say on Scandal) rather than to create lasting changes that might also produce positive surveys. Data-driven education at it's finest.

09 March, 2013

Just like the movies

After listening to everyone talk about House of Cards for a while, I finally decided to see what everyone was so excited about. If not for that late winter snowstorm we had yesterday, who knows? What I don't understand is why no one told me that an education bill was so central to the plot. I LOVE education. I LOVE politics. I LOVE Kevin Spacey and Kate Mara (and if I could have Mara's character's wardrobe I would be pretty satisfied).

I don't know all of the who's who for NCLB and certainly not for any major bill that happened prior, so I'm not sure exactly how realistic some of this is. Spacey's character is Majority Whip from South Carolina. I'm only a few episodes in but just those facts make his battles with the teachers' union seem realistically possible.

Like anyone else who watches tv and movies for fun, I have opinions on the asides to the camera and Robin Wright's haircut. But I'm sure you can find those anywhere on the internet. I am curious how the writers chose education as the vehicle for so much of the action. What does it say about who really influences decisions that are made about public education. Does everyone with a netflix account want to be at the table for that discussion in real life?

I know, it's fiction. art. the opposite of The Newsroom. something to watch while I grade papers all weekend.

And those friends who didn't tell me this series was about my favorite things? Well their names are already organized on a magnetic board above my desk. Just wait until they need some of my political capital.