Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “Family”

Trusting your 9 year old to use Snapchat?

Seen recently on Facebook:

Just found out that my daughter has a Snapchat account? Apparently for about a year now!!! How did I not know this??? I knew about the Twitter, YouTube and Instagram but not Snapchat!!! Yep mother of the year!!

Should a 9 year old have Snapchat? Probably not.  Like most social media apps, Snapchat is not inherently good or bad.  It’s how it’s used that’s significant.

Snapchat posts "disappear" after 10 seconds

Snapchat posts “disappear” after 10 seconds

Snapchat has a bad reputation.  The idea of it is that you send a picture with or without an associated line of text to a “friend” or “friends”.  The picture only lasts on their screen for between 1 and 10 seconds and then it is gone unless the friend screenshots it.

Of course it’s not really gone as nothing on the internet is ever gone but it’s not easy to get your hands on a Snapchat once the 10 seconds is up.

The bad reputation comes from its early use as a sexting app.  Some people are perhaps more willing to send compromising photos of themselves if they think they are not permanent. No doubt it is still used by some for sexting but for others it’s just another means of communication.

According to one teenager I interviewed, the attraction is that it’s quick to compose and it doesn’t have to be perfectly crafted because its existence is fleeting.

Nobody’s going to go back and critique your camera angles or your word choice.

By photographing your expression, emotion is conveyed which may not be obvious from the use of words only.

A selection of Snapchats sent to and by one teenager

A selection of Snapchats sent to and by one teenager

As usual, it’s all about digital citizenship.  If Snapchat were banned, people would find another way to achieve their purpose, whether it’s sexting or sending silly faces.

It’s definitely hard for parents to keep up with the latest popular app.

What parents and teachers need to do is keep having conversations with young people who are old enough to make wise choices about who to “friend” or not to “friend” on social media and how to make good decisions about what they post.

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Cats and dogs as parents

 

On one level, this is just a funny clip about the differences between cats and dogs.  On another level, it says something about parenting and how we teach our children to view the world.

The dog in this clip patiently encourages its young, never far away while the puppy attempts to descend the scary staircase.

The cat just pushes its kitten down the stairs.

Of course, we only see the cats briefly.  The mother cat may have tried the other options first.

I remember gently but firmly pushing my daughter (then aged about 8) onto a chairlift because I’d tried all the encouraging talk and she was still hesitating.  I knew she was a child who sometimes did just need a push to try something new.

Teachers sometimes see parents who act a bit like the dog mother as she tries to walk down the stairs over the top of the puppy – helicopter parents or smother mothers – who try to shield their child from everything that could go wrong and rescue them from their bad decisions so that they never have to face the consequences.

They justify their actions to themselves and others as just protective parenting.  They say that they are only seeking justice and fairness when they question why their child is being punished for something he or she did at school or why he or she didn’t get a better mark for a piece of assessment.

It’s true that teachers sometimes make unfair judgements – usually in the absence of all the evidence.  It’s true that marking across classes and schools is not completely equal, no matter how hard we try.  Occasionally even the most reserved parent needs to step in and ask questions.  Teachers, however, are professionals who in most cases make decisions thoughtfully.

It’s also true that as parents we generally want to believe that our children would not do the wrong thing – not punch a classmate, not lie to a teacher about what happened in the playground, not break the school rules –but if we are honest we have to admit that children (just like adults) sometimes make bad choices.

We will not always be there to rescue our children from the consequences of their actions.  If my adult daughter gets angry with her boss and swears at her and gets fired, I can’t step in to complain that she was provoked and the boss is unfair.  If my adult son doesn’t get the promotion he really wanted because he hasn’t been working as hard as someone else, it will do me no good to ring the employer and argue about why he deserves to get it.

And sometimes, life is just unfair.  People invest money which is subsequently lost by the actions of con artists or the whims of the stock market; women who have done nothing wrong suffer domestic violence; jobs can be hard to find; people contract chronic or terminal diseases.

Children need to start developing resilience while they are young and part of that is learning how to cope with the knocks, setbacks and disappointments that life brings – deserved or undeserved.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child.  Once we have found the village to help us raise our children, we parents need to place some trust in the other members of that village. Sometimes they might push our kitten down the stairs (metaphorically, not literally!) but maybe that is what our kitten needs.

Trusting parents not to do children’s homework

I’m sure all teachers have been in the position where you suspect that a child’s homework has not been completed by that child.  It can be hard to understand the thinking of the parent (presumably) who did the homework.  In one case I remember I think the mother did it for the sake of a quiet life.  She certainly didn’t gain her son any academic advantages because her spelling was worse than his!

Should parents help children with homework?

Should parents help children with homework?

However, I am often surprised at the vehemence with which some primary school teachers insist that assessment pieces should not be done at home.  Their reasoning is that parents might end up doing the assessment for the child or significantly assisting them to do the assessment and that’s not a fair judgement of the child’s ability.

I don’t agree with that position for lots of reasons.  Here are some of them:

  • I know that as a classroom teacher, as hard as I try, there is no way I can give every one of my students the same amount of support and scaffolding and helping them at the point where they really need help as a willing and competent parent can give.  There just aren’t enough hours in the school day.
  • It’s common for secondary school and tertiary level assessments to be completed in unsupervised conditions. (Yes, some tasks are supervised but not all.)
  • In “real life” we can usually ask for help or access resources to help us complete whatever it is we need to complete.
  • Collaboration and critical thinking are skills we talk about as essential for 21st century learners.
  • Some assessment tasks can still be done at school to give a “balanced” view of what a student can do under different conditions.  Some children perform well under exam conditions.  Is it not giving them an unfair advantage if all assessment is done that way?
  • A parent does not do their child any favours if they do the child’s assignment for them.  It may gain advantages for them in the short term but in the long term that child is not equipped with the necessary skills to approach tasks in study or in working life.  Helping your child to learn how to research and apply critical judgement, to summarise and analyse is not the same as doing their assignment for them.

Yes, some parents are more equipped than others to help their children with schoolwork but there are a lot of factors which predict academic achievement, including parental expectations but also

  • teacher effectiveness
  • curriculum quality
  • school environment
  • prior student ability and motivation, and
  • socio-economic status.

I still think my major job role is to help children to learn, not to help them to ace tests.

I am a partner in children’s learning – along with their parents.

I teach them for a year.

Their parents teach them for a lifetime.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakleyoriginals/3393259139/”>OakleyOriginals</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Trust Story 1 (Parent-Teacher)

The first term of the school year recently finished and my teaching partner and I, as required by the school administration, offered the parents of children in our class the opportunity to have a personal interview with us about their child’s progress.

These are the same parents we gave an information session for five short weeks earlier.  That was a somewhat different format.  Although we tried to make it as informal as possible, inevitably it consisted of us giving information about the year ahead and them listening and asking questions.  I remember thinking that they were a tough audience – notepads at the ready, some difficult questions and their responses to our feeble attempts at jokes were hardly encouraging.  One father in particular did not crack a smile the whole hour.

Needless to say we weren’t looking forward to our interview with him but it turned out to be a pleasant chat with good humour on both sides and this was the case for all of the interviews.  We had to say a few things that parents probably didn’t want to hear and a few parents raised issues with us that we are not quite sure how to deal with but on the whole the parents were open, supportive and collaborative.  One shed tears, one told us about the worst period of her life and how it had affected her son, another about her experiences growing up and why she would not subject her son to the same pressures she faced.

What was the difference other than five weeks?  Well, I think the difference was the five weeks – five weeks in which they had learned to trust us and learned that their children trust us.  Two different mothers, after we had described some aspect of their child which we had observed,  said,  “Ah, then you do have the real (insert name of child)”.

This is not to say that we are super teachers or that we will have no problems with trust relationships throughout the year.  Things will come up that strengthen and weaken the parents’ and children’s trust in us and our trust in them.  Trust is dynamic and changeable but it has to be the foundation of any classroom.

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