Students Should Use Their Voices, Give Feedback

Every semester, the School asks students to complete a survey to gain feedback on the efficacy of its teachers and program. Despite being asked for their opinions, many students continue to feel unheard, as they harbor information and observations that do not fit within the narrow topics of the survey’s questions. Students wish their evaluations were expanded to include other aspects of the School such as the administration, college counseling, and general policies.

The surveys that the School currently distributes have one page of general questions about each class; students can select “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neutral,” “disagree,” or “strongly disagree” prompts that cover a variety of topics from how well the teacher sticks to a lesson plan to how prepared the student feels for assessments. The second section of the survey consists of three short answer questions that each department creates in order to customize the survey to each specific subject.

However, despite the multitude of questions students are asked, much of their most important commentary remains unprompted. For example, students should be asked if they have book recommendations for English courses, whether or not they have comments about specific grading policies (weighted, points, whim, etc…), and how they think teachers can best support them throughout the school year. 

Senior Hudson Hale wishes students were given a space to explain whether or not teachers work with students to accommodate their complicated schedules. Senior Kate Lower wants to be able to express whether teachers actually recognize the stress students have, not just from that teacher’s specific academic class, but in all other classes, extracurriculars, and home life.

Aside from teacher and general policy surveys, the School should implement surveys to solicit feedback on administration and staff. Students should be able to praise our nurse–Mrs. Donaldson–and our maintenance staff–Juan, Anthony, Douglas –in a more formal way. They do a great deal for our school, and students, aside from saying thank you, do not have a good way to appreciate them. Students should be able to offer feedback on all members of the Benjamin community who affect their daily lives. This includes our Dean of Students, college counselors, student services staff, and coaches. Whether students have criticism or praise about a member of the administration, their voices should be heard.

This year, we have welcomed more new students than in previous years, many of whom transferred from different schools. These new Bucs might have valuable information about how they perceive the differences between their old schools and Benjamin and could offer insight into some of the differences in discipline, the college process, and student counselors. Again, this could be an optional opportunity for new students, but it could give the administrators some new ideas that they could put into practice if they felt it would benefit the School. Being the best means we should be actively looking at what our competition is doing. These new students can help us do just that.

Revising the teacher feedback forms and adding administrative evaluations is a good start to allowing students to speak their minds; however, there are a number of other ways the School can gain invaluable feedback about general school policies. 

This year in particular has been full of new policies regarding where students eat lunch, how they get to their classes, and even how they drive to school. These new procedures were put in place due to safety concerns revolving around COVID-19, but students may have opinions on ways to improve these systems in ways that create an even safer, more healthy environment. While the School would be under no obligation to actually implement these ideas, there should be an outlet for students to at least express their opinions. 

Consider sophomore Holland Poncy. Poncy recently began driving and believes that the gate’s closing at 7:55 actually causes more harm than good. If a student drives to school and gets to the gate at 7:57, he or she then has to go around to the office, get a temperature check, sign in with Nurse Donaldson, move his or her car to the correct parking lot, and only then go to class. These tasks make students far later to class than they would have been if they didn’t have to go through that process before 8:00 a.m.. Poncy believes that if the gate were just left open until 8:00 a.m. those students that get to the parking lot slightly later may not be as late for their class. If she had a way to share her ideas through an evaluation at the end of each semester or even each year, the administration may actually be exposed to ideas they hadn’t thought of and be able to implement some of them. This survey doesn’t necessarily have to be mandatory, but providing the option will allow students to feel more a part of the Benjamin community, even if their ideas are not put into place.