Trust in education

Trust in the school context, especially around the use of technology.

Trust Story 3 (Student-Teacher)

Tom used to miss a lot of school, was often tired when he did come, sometimes didn’t smell too good, rarely completed his homework, had big holes in his socks and didn’t have strong social skills.  He had at times been the target of bullies.

One day he said to me, “Mrs K, you’re my favourite teacher”.  I replied, “Oh, I bet you say that to all your teachers”.  He responded “Well, yes I do but I like them all”.

This conversation was pretty early in the school year so it obviously doesn’t take long for Tom to decide that he likes his teacher.   It’s against the law of averages for Tom to have had an equally caring teacher every year of his school life so I think it’s his way of expressing that he trusts us and feels comfortable with us.  School is the predictable and reliable part of his life.

In Tom’s household there is a changing procession of inhabitants.  Not much is constant or predictable.  He is fed and clothed and given some attention but that’s about as far as it goes.

Every teacher has taught a Tom at some point in their career. Some have taught many Toms.  There are some schools where the entire student population is made up of Toms.

Out of sight

Difficult family dynamics often influence young people engaging in risky online behaviour.

Tom sometimes mentioned an M-rated movie that he had watched or game that he had played and also sometimes mentioned the early hour of the morning he had played or watched it.  At 10 he was still fairly innocent but I feared that as he got older, his online activity would continue to be largely unregulated.

Research on cyber-bullying

Cyber-bullying and risky online behaviours are some of the issues that get a lot of press when it comes to talking about children and their use of technology. Cyber-bullying and stalking certainly happen as do instances of young people accessing inappropriate content, and sharing and posting information and photos which should remain private.

However some research by the Berkman Center found that children who are most at risk online “often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies”.

Children who are helped by their families to develop healthy digital habits are not likely to be the ones who run into difficulties online.  It’s more likely to be the children like Tom.

Schools cannot change the dynamics of a student’s home life.  What a school can do is make school a safe place for all members of its community, a place where members feel trusted and able to trust, and do something to help children to develop those healthy digital habits.


Photo credit: <a href=””>Mark J P</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

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