Wake up call: Are we providing enough support for our students?

Media outlets were covering a story yesterday that really got me thinking. It was based on a census survey report released by the Toronto District School Board that highlighted student perceptions of their experiences at school in a number of areas including:

  • safety
  • teachers
  • extra-curriculars
  • support
  • skills
  • health
  • well-being

TDSB study

Some of the findings are enlightening and positive but others indicate a need for improvement and funding to address critical areas in which we might be failing our teens and leaving them ill-equipped to prepare for the future.

Thankfully this survey has been conducted so that administrators and government can take a closer look at the pressures and realities teens are facing these days and hopefully put measures in place to address them.

A whopping 103,000 students in the Toronto region from grades 7-12 participated in the study. I’ve listed a summary of findings that stood out to me below. I focused mainly on results highlighting the well-being and support aspects of high school students surveyed.

  • 69% feel supported by their teachers
  • 93% feel that school adults treat them the same or better than everyone else

But…

  • 46% do not have a school adult that they feel comfortable to go to for personal support, advice, or help
  • Only 62% feel hopeful about the future
  • 73% are worried about the future
  • 57% sometimes or often lose sleep because of worries
  • 66% report being sometimes or often under a lot of stress
  • 72% report being sometimes or often nervous/anxious

As I mentioned, the above findings are based on high school students’ perceptions, but unfortunately, findings for middle school aged students follow a similar pattern.

Although these findings are pretty dreary, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

First, the Board is collecting this data to inform and address their Mental Health Strategy. I think they will find this data very helpful in establishing policies and guidelines aimed at helping students deal with and overcome some of these issues. I’ll be curious to follow up and learn more about their strategy.

Also, I discovered an excerpt within the report that warmed my heart and made me want to give this student a big hug. It also helps to add some context to the survey results and reminds us that subjective feedback and comments can provide rich information to guide future plans and strategy.

The excerpt I’m referring to (page 52) is from a secondary student’s letter to the Board giving recommendations for improving his/her school environment and experience.

I loved it. It was perfect and I hope the Board considers these suggestions and continues to seek feedback from the students themselves. Here are the student’s recommendations…

  1. make gym class mandatory for every grade
  2. help students learn skills via mandatory or optional credits to help them be successful in the real world, like “people skills, money management, and developing an area of creativity or passion
  3. create a higher standard for teachers – “what is the point of an amazing curriculum if the teacher can’t capture the interest of the student?”
  4. make it mandatory to join at least two extracurricular clubs or teams “real learning exists outside of the classroom…these can all provide lifelong lessons…many students are afraid to join clubs or sports teams because they are insecure about their body or do not know anyone else on the club/team”

What brilliant suggestions. I hope the Board considers them.

What suggestions do you have for supporting students and improving their school experiences?

 

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