Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “imformation privacy”

Trusting that students will say something nice

The school that my children attend prides itself on its community “feel” and the character of its students.  On the whole I agree.

Happy students from another school.

      Happy students from another school

A couple of the most telling examples from over the years:

  • The applause that went on and on and on and on for the senior student who was given an award for having achieved despite difficult circumstances.  This student’s father had died during his senior year.
  •  The guest’s at my son’s 16th birthday party, sitting around a fire pit and singing.  A 16th birthday party could have been a lot worse…
  • The time I chanced upon a group of students on campus at the end of an open day.  Most visitors had left.  One of the students had his back to me and didn’t know I was nearing the group on my way out.  He was describing something which had happened and his description included some swearing. I don’t think the students recognised me as a current parent of the school and his comments were intended for his peers’ ears only.  The students who could see me gave him meaningful looks and he turned in some confusion and noticed me and realised that I had heard his words.  Maybe I should have been offended.  I don’t enjoy listening to “f words” but what had the most impact on me was the look on his face which clearly showed his disappointment in himself.  If he had said it in words, I don’t think he could have any more clearly expressed the sense that he had let down himself, his peers and his school.

I do understand why schools ban students from discussing or posting about school happenings on social media.  They fear for their reputations if a bad impression is given and we all know that a social media post can have a wide reach.

The trouble is that the good things happening often go unnoticed for fear of the bad things that might get too much notice.

Yesterday my daughter, along with her classmates, worked to put together birthing kits.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

She told me that she thought it was possibly the “coolest thing she had ever done”.  She was touched by having been able to do something which would help someone so directly.  I’m sure some of her friends felt the same.  Wouldn’t it have been cool if she could have snapchatted or Facebooked it.

The students’ characters, the school’s values and the cause they’re working for would all have got some great publicity.

If we teach digital citizenship, can we trust our students to say positive things?

Dig Cit 2





Dig cit

Photo credits:

Prinnie Stevens, Mahalia Barnes


Trusting teachers

Have you ever had an experience when a student’s behaviour was difficult to understand and then someone filled you in with an explanation about their personal circumstances and suddenly it all made sense?

Have you ever had an experience when you had a piece of information about a student’s personal circumstances but it wasn’t enough to give you a complete picture?  Have you felt embarrassed to ask because you won’t want to appear nosey or gossipy?

Have you ever had an experience when you heard teachers talking amongst themselves about a student’s personal circumstances and you felt uncomfortable about whether the information was really necessary to share?


Sharing useful information or sharing gossip?

Sharing useful information or sharing gossip?

Privacy of personal information

I can answer yes to all these questions and I think this is one of the tensions of teaching today in a society which values (and sometimes over-values) privacy of personal information.  On one hand people feel comfortable sharing quite intimate details on social media sites but on the other hand institutions such as banks and insurance companies have policies which prevent even close family members from accessing someone’s information.

This makes sense in theory but have we taken our need for political correctness and privacy of information too far so that even the people who could provide a better service if they were in possession of certain information are not given access to it?

Understanding students’ behaviour

Here are a couple of examples:

  • “Jack” who was totally unengaged in the SOSE unit on a particular country.  Afterwards his mother told me that he had visited that country several times and knew a lot about the country and its culture.  The reason he knew so much was that his parents were divorced and his father had remarried to a woman from that country.  Jack still resented his father leaving the family and resented his step-mother’s presence in his life and resisted anything to do with her or her country.
  • “Simon” and “Jacob” – two boys I supervised/taught briefly on separate occasions.  I found Simon a little loud and disruptive and Jacob a little sullen but neither seemed anything out of the ordinary.  Afterwards I found that both were “famous” for their problem behaviour, Jacob’s attributed to ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome.
  • “Tim’s” father had passed away but I had no idea how long ago or under what circumstances and didn’t like to ask.  Tim didn’t talk about his dad and didn’t present with any obvious social or emotional issues…unlike “Alice”.

“Alice’s” mother had also passed away and I did know the circumstances and that knowledge was the key to understanding Alice.  Alice was 6 when I taught her and her mother had been murdered when Alice was 3.

At 6 Alice was now old enough to understand more about what had happened and was trying to come to terms with it.  She would often write about it in her journal.  One day I showed her how to correctly spell the surname of the murderer and 20 years later I’m still wondering if I should have done that.  On one level I was teaching her a new spelling pattern but on another level I felt that it was empowering her a bit.

Teachers as professionals

Teachers need to be careful guardians of sensitive information that has been entrusted to them as do doctors, lawyers, psychologists, priests and other professionals.

School leaders and administrators need to trust teachers to be professional.  If there is information to be share about a child in our care, we don’t want it for the sake of gossip.

We want it so that we can understand that child and try to meet their needs.

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