We have just completed and analyzed our online School Climate Survey of all students, staff and parents from grades four to twelve. Our district survey was based on the Ministry of Education’s survey. This was a fascinating exercise to explore how our students, parents and staff are feeling about their school environment, its safety and inclusiveness. The data has been broken down to the school level and provided to each school’s Safe School Team as a part of the data to inform their school improvement plans. Our district committee has been analyzing the results to inform our next move to supporting students.
An eye-opening response that really made us pay attention was from the following question:
“If you do not feel that you are welcome or that you belong, do you think it is because of any of the following?” ( A list was provided.)
26% of students replied that it is “The way I learn.”
37% of staff replied that it is, “The way they learn.”
36% of parents replied that it is, “The way they learn.”
Our staff work very hard to ensure that our schools are warm and welcoming environments for our students. They have strong character education programs, they model and expect appropriate behaviour, they are dedicated professionals who come to school every day welcoming their students and hoping and working toward the very best for them. They differentiate their instruction, utilize assistive technology, Smart boards, ipods, etc. Our schools are great places to spend the day learning. For almost all students.
Not All Kids Learn the Same Way—and They May Learn Differently Than the Way the Teacher Teaches
However, we now have this information that indicates that the way many students learn is creating a significant barrier for their feelings of being accepted in the school community. Students, their parents and the staff who teach them all agree on this point to a significant degree. One quarter of our students who don’t feel welcome indicate that their discomfort at school is because of the way they learn.
We will use the information from our survey to hone our character education programs, some of our practices for communication and some other matters. However, this particular response from students, staff and parents indicates that we have no ethical choice other than to work very hard to learn how to better understand the learning styles of all of our students to help them feel welcome in their own schools.
It is interesting how a simple survey can confirm so much of what modern educational and brain research can tell us about teaching and learning for children.