Razavi makes student teacher connection visible


Logo design: Isobel Alm, Adrienne Gaylord

Connect the Dots is an activity inspired by an activity from the Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

The “Connect the Dots” survey, a form where students could identify adults in the community that they trust, was sent out to students and faculty last week. The idea of “Connect the Dots” came to SPA after Middle School Social Studies teacher Bobak Razavi attended the People of Color Conference in Indianapolis with other SPA teachers in December 2014: “While I was there, I got the idea to do a community survey where we try to figure out gaps in our adult understanding of who might be unknown, or who might be those students who we might overlook in someway,” Razavi said.

At the conference, teachers shared their thoughts about how to find students that were not connected with others in the community. Razavi said, “In one of the sessions, someone talked about placing a student roster up in the staff lounge in August, at the beginning of the school year […] I thought that was a great idea, but the problem is that other teachers could see who the other 40 teachers are dotting; and so they can see if [a student] has eight dots, so then they won’t dot them and will dot someone else with less dots. And so, I knew that by creating privacy around whom we were each dotting would help us realize who, in the most authentic and accurate way, who we really aren’t noticing.”

we are continually working on is how to best analyze the data, and how to use the information.”

— Bobak Razavi

Razavi took this idea to then Middle School Principal Jill Romans, and Director of Intercultural Life Karen Dye. They worked on improving the survey until July of 2015. Razavi said, “We launched it that Spring of 2015 […] where we did a survey just of the 40 middle school adults.” However, Razavi knew that this exercise did not tell the complete story. He said, “We know that our professional judgment is going to be just as important as anything some dots can say. So if [a student] ends up with zero dots, it doesn’t mean much unless we also, as adults, figure out what that might mean.” By using the survey and professional judgment, Razavi and other adults in the community are able to find students who may not have too many connections and understand why that is.

The process of creation of this survey is still ongoing, Razavi said: “We’ve only done this 6 or 7 times total [twice in the Upper School] so we are still figuring some things out […] we are continually working on is how to best analyze the data, and how to use the information.” One obstacle is confidentiality, “It’s confidential, sensitive information so we have to be very careful about how we share it […] Confidentiality is very important to us.” Razavi said.

The survey was introduced to middle school students the next year, and has been used the last couple of years. Last year, the survey was introduced to the upper school. Two surveys are sent out, with one going to adults, who can only dot a limited amount of students, while the students receive a survey where they can dot an unlimited amount of adults, allowing them more flexibility.

Razavi said, “One thing I like about the survey is that it helps all students. It doesn’t just help the Seniors, who might be more known than others, it doesn’t just help the [ninth graders], who are probably less known than the upperclassmen. it doesn’t just help certain groups of students, it helps everyone; It helps students identify their adult network, and does the same thing for the adults, as it lets them identify their student network.”

While the process of improving how to analyze the data continues, it is very important for you, the students, to not only fill out the survey, but also to take it seriously. Instead of racing through it in a minute, take the time to really think about your relationships around the school. Razavi said, “In a academic setting, it is easy for all of us to only focus on the courses that we are teaching or learning […] This survey is an opportunity for everyone to pause and realize the glue that sticks the whole community together, which is important to think and talk about periodically in any healthy community.”