I had something interesting [at least I thought so] happen last week at my school site. A little background is needed, though, I am at a Title I, at-risk population school. We are 95%+ free and reduced lunch, high SpEd. population, high EL population, etc… 6 years ago or so it was one one of the highest suspension rate schools in the State. The area can be a little rough, all the things you here about “those” schools. We have had an amazing turnaround over the last 4 years in all aspects. I will not spout data, but we are a really good, safe, active school.
This is what happened. We had a basketball game at our school [middle school sports should not be that intense] against a school from a neighboring district that has a fairly different student makeup than ours, to say the least. During the girls’ game, a boys player’s shoes came up missing. They notified adults but by the time girls game was over they were not found. They next day one of my staff received an email that stated [not exact quote]:
Last night one of our player’s shoes were stolen during the game. I hope you can help rectify the situation and I hope this is not typically behavior for students at your school.
To many, this email may not seem like a big deal, but it is so laden with negative assumptions and perceptions about my school [yes I am sensitive about it] that it is downright offensive. The person was assuming that the shoes were stolen, assumed we could get them back [when things are stolen from schools it is very hard to recover them], and that this IS normal behavior for our students.
Just to be clear, we checked the video. The shoes were hidden by one of the player’s teammates. One of my students found it when cleaning the gym, gave it to a parent who gave it to one of my coaches. We drove the shoes to the other site the next day.
This illustrates a dangerous phenomenon in the educational world of acting on assumptions [and perceptions]. I know as educators this is easy to do as we have so many decisions to make every day and usually without all the information we need. But it is dangerous.
The person who sent the email could have easily said, “last night a players’ shoes went missing, can you take a look in the gym to see if they were left there. Any help would be greatly appreciated.” But he didn’t. He had a perception about my site and based assumptions off of those perceptions. I am not judging this, I do it to….that does not make it right, though.
In education, we should be very aware of our own perception and the assumptions we make from those perceptions. We need to be aware because if we are not, we make decisions and move on actions that may [and will] negatively impact students.
In education, we should be the people with the mindset to challenge assumptions and change perceptions.
Just a thought.