By, Crystal Yang
In October, Dr. Blackburn and Ms. Martin announced that they would begin the month of November with what one student stated was “a bold move”: the hotly-debated health survey.
The purpose of conducting the survey, as the teachers later clarified in an email, was to “learn about the real challenges [Winsor students] face in 2017…we will use the information we gather to tailor our teaching and mentoring to support all of you…We would not waste your time asking you to do something that we did not feel was important.” Additionally, the email served to address some of the immediate backlash that the announcement had faced at the Upper School Meeting, such as the fact that the health survey would be held during advisory, the lack of advisory snack during the survey, the student-perceived mandatory nature of the survey (due to all the formalities that came with declining to take the survey) and the chosen date, November 1st, which directly coincided with a major college application deadline.
However, some concerns that students had with the survey were not addressed in that specific email. An anonymous student says that “One of my main personal concerns was that…although the survey guaranteed anonymity, I still felt a little skeptical…” She added, too, that, “I believe that most of the issues on the survey were not applicable to Winsor.” The issues in question were smoking, sex, drugs, and alcohol, among others, due to the fact that, as Ms. Markenson explains, “We chose to use [a survey designed by a third-party company] rather than designing our own so that we could get a sense of how Winsor students’ behaviors and attitudes compare to those of other independent school students … While a few of their questions were not really applicable to our community, we felt that most of the questions asked were relevant to our concerns about student wellness.” However, when asked, many students said that they would have preferred to see more questions asked about mental disorders, learning disabilities, and other issues that they felt were more pertinent. Additionally, Ms. Markenson mentioned that “We will be sharing some information about the survey results in the next few weeks.”
In my opinion, while I understand that this particular survey was a trial run and was definitely conducted with the best interests of the student body at heart, the health survey would have been more successful if students had more of a say in the content, or if the questions were tailored more towards Winsor’s specific needs. If it had been possible for the students to help decide whether to conduct the survey or not, or some other form of involvement earlier on, the overall experience could also have been further improved.
However, it is important to remember that we are incredibly privileged and fortunate to go to a school that values and tries to incorporate our input, and the health survey was a positive step forward in that it allows for teachers to make more informed decisions when providing support for the student body, and that it will assist in the process of developing a health curriculum suited for the modern age we live in.