Our school has done its best to make West High the best high. But does everyone really feel that way? How do we really know that everyone feels welcome here? How do we tell if someone feels safe at our school? Sure, we take those surveys once a year… but what are they even used for? Are all students of West High represented? Who do we address these questions to?
Keeping these questions in mind, I decided to do what I had the power to do as a journalist. I formed a small survey, containing five simple yes/no questions.
Do you know who to go to if someone is bullying you?
Do you know what the surveys we take at school are used for?
Do you think the school is doing what it needs to do, in order to represent everyone?
If you wanted to change something about the school, do you know who you would approach?
Do you believe your opinion counts and matters in school?
With no clue as to how the results would turn out, I gave these surveys to a total of 140 students from all four grade levels.
The results from the survey were interesting. 82% of the students responded “Yes,” when asked if they knew who to go to when dealing with a bully. This shows that West High has done a decent job on reaching out to students and letting them know how to deal with bullies. Personally, I had expected a much lower percentage, remembering that when I was faced with bullies I had no idea who to ask for help. There is always that fear of being called a “snitch” or being bullied even more if you ask for help. This fear may often lead those bullied to remain silent. Although my experience with bullies did not occur during high school, I still had the same fears when I started it. Throughout my years at West, however, that has definitely changed. The students, the teachers and the environment have made it possible for me to express my feelings. If I was not comfortable here, I would not be writing about my personal experience with bullies. I believe this is true of many people, as this question had the most positive answers of all five questions.
The responses for question two were a lot more different. Only 49% of students claimed they knew why we took the surveys at school once a year. 50% of the students claimed they did not know. 1% did not answer. From this we can assume many students do not know why we take surveys, or how those surveys are used. I have to be honest, I do not know why we take those surveys either. Students are generally instructed to quickly take it, but because we are never really told their purpose, not many people are willing to answer as seriously as they should. When I conducted my survey, I made sure people knew that I would use their responses as reference for my article. Anyone giving a survey should state the purpose.
When asked if the school was doing what it needed to do in order to represent everyone, 54% of the students responded “No,” and 46% responded “Yes.” More than half of the students who were asked believe that our school is not doing what it needs to do to represent everyone. It can be implied that more than half of our school feels underrepresented. This is not where our school should be. Somehow we have failed to make everyone feel like they are being represented. Looking back at those yearly surveys, maybe we feel our answers are worth nothing but just some numbers on a graph, and so we do not feel like our opinions are heard and acted upon.
What inspired my fourth question was my experience in elementary school. I have wondered where the leftover food from the school cafeteria went. I was not alone, as many shared this curiosity with me. And with unanswered questions came rumored answers. No one really knew the right answer and no one knew who to ask. I still am curious as to what happens to the milk cartons and fruits piled on top of the trashcan. I realize that with the new health guidelines, we are required to take a certain portion of fruits and vegetables, but what is the point of making students take the food when it will just be placed on top of a trashcan? Therefore, my fourth question regarded bringing change and knowing who to approach. 51% of the students replied that they did not know who to approach if they wanted to change something about the school.
This is our school and we should spend our time here satisfied with what we see and experience. And if we do not feel satisfied, then change must take place. To bring about change, one of the first steps would be to address your passion towards the subject. How much do you want to reach your destination? If you feel strongly about the subject, then all you really need are directions to go towards your goal. But if we do not have the map to guide us towards our destination, we cannot move without being lost. According to the survey, 51% of the students do not know where they need to go to bring about change.
What shocked me the most was the results to question five. 59% of the students believed their opinion did not count and did not matter in school. This is approximately three in every five students. In an average class size of 35 students, 21 students believe their opinion to be unimportant to the school. Only 39% believed that their opinion mattered. 2% did not answer. As I read the surveys and counted up the responses, question five had the strongest emphasis on “No,” with many student circling vigorously and drawing multiple arrows circling the word.
Are students represented? Do we have a say in what goes around in school? How can the school reach out to all students? What can the school do to make the students feel like they matter, to make them feel like they are being heard and taken seriously? These are question that can only be answered by students’ input. And these are questions that the school needs to not only ask the students but also act upon the answers.