Saturday, February 22, 2014

Survivor, Middle School Edition

Sometimes, I feel absolutely sucked dry by my job as a middle school special ed teacher; it's such a thankless job. I almost always feel like I work harder than my students. I feel like I am constantly hounding them, like they must think I am an old crab who is bent on making their lives miserable. On Friday, I was reminded that my perspective isn't always correct.

As part of a pilot year, we teachers are expected to write surveys to give to our students. The surveys are designed to get input on our teaching, to glean info that we reflect on and use to improve our craft. The surveys can be anonymous, and three of my colleagues and I (part of a community of 80 students) decided to conduct one survey together. Today, we gave our serious (anonymous) Google Form survey that asked students questions such as, "I feel like my teachers respect me" (Agree/Disagree, etc.) and "I feel comfortable asking for help" "My teachers care about me" etc. Just to be funny, we threw in a couple of silly questions, including this one:

Your cruise ship is sinking. Aside from your own vest, you have only two. Which teachers would you give them to: Mrs. C, Mrs.4444, Mrs. K, or Mr. R.?

I felt certain I would be left to drown. 

However, when Mrs. C and I conducted the survey with our class of 25 students, I was surprised at the students' general reactions to the question--They did not want to answer it!

"Mrs. 4444, that's mean!" exclaimed one boy.

Do we have to choose?? whined another.

We were so touched by the kids' responses--Some were horrified by the suggestion that they could only save two of us. One asked if he would be allowed to take off his vest to give it to a teacher. What was truly shocking to me about this answer was that it came from the student I ride the most of all. When his peer agreed that giving up his vest was a great idea, the boy turned to me and said, "See, Mrs. 4444? He loves you."

My heart melted.

One boy suggested throwing two vests into the water and letting us fight over them. Another said told Mr. R later,

"I'm sorry; I didn't give a life vest to you, but I figured you would be the strongest swimmer!"

Of course, some kids had no problem choosing a teacher to cull out; they didn't take the question so seriously.

For the record, we explained to the kids that that question was just a joke. We reminded them that the survey was anonymous, too, and that we didn't plan to take their answers to heart. Some students figured out that they were able to check all of our names, anyway. I haven't seen the final results of the survey yet; I'm just enjoying the process and the resulting conversations.  What a fun way to end the week, with a fresh perspective.

I almost look forward to Monday.

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