Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “Parent”

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.


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=””>OakleyOriginals</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Speaking the language of trust

When your child is very ill, you really have no choice but to trust the health professionals who are caring for her.

We have to trust doctors and nurses when we don't know anything about medicine ourselves.

We have to trust doctors and nurses when we don’t know anything about medicine ourselves.


This was my situation last week when I took my daughter to the emergency department on our local doctor’s recommendation.  Our doctor couldn’t work out why my daughter (A) was displaying the symptoms she had and for a few hours, neither could the staff in emergency.

To cut a long story short, she has been diagnosed with Addison’s Disease which is a rare condition and to make it more complicated, her symptoms did not fit the typical presentation.

I experienced a few of the most agonising hours of my life between the time the registrar in emergency told me that the possible cause of the symptoms was a tumour and the time the endocrinologist told me that the most likely cause was an adrenal or pituitary malfunction with tumour a long way down his list of possibilities.

When the CT scan results were normal and various blood tests confirmed the probability of Addison’s Disease, I felt a bit more weight lift from my heart.

No-one would choose to have Addison’s Disease but it’s a better diagnosis than a tumour.

I know a lot more now than I did a few weeks ago about endocrinology but it’s still not very much.  I have little choice but to trust in the knowledge and experience of the doctors treating A.

I have no reason to doubt their knowledge and expertise but admit that there were a few moments when I just wanted to bundle her up and take her home from hospital – away from cannulas and drips and blood tests – but I knew enough to understand that my love was not enough to treat her problem.

To bring this blog back to the realm of education where it usually lives, I quote John Hattie who wrote about home-school collaboration that it is when parents are able to “speak the language of schooling” that their children’s educational outcomes are positively influenced.

I don’t speak very much of the “language of medicine”.  I have to trust those who do speak it and luckily for us, A is being treated by professionals who understand it well.

Parents who don’t speak the “language of schooling” have to trust professional educators.  We are more likely to be trusted if we demonstrate that we understand and speak the right language but are also able to effectively “translate” for those who don’t speak it but have a right to understand what their child is experiencing.

Photo credit: Item 73713, Engineering Department Photographic Negatives (Record Series 2613-07), Seattle Municipal Archives.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Abingdon: Routledge.

Trust Story 4 (Parent-Parent)

Eight forty-something women, Friday evening, tapas and white wine.

Most of us thought it was just a casual get-together, an escape from cooking and washing up for the night.  Susan, the organiser, had a different purpose.  We all have daughters at the same dance school and Susan started the evening’s proceedings with a tearful, funny and heartfelt speech about how she came to be a “dance mum” and how she had found acceptance, friendship and belonging in this little group of other dance mums.

I’m a newcomer to this group.  My daughter changed dance schools this year after ten years at another school where she was feeling increasingly isolated and I had never even been invited down the road for a cup of coffee.


My connection with Susan goes back a few years to when I taught her son.  I took over the class part way through the school year in what were trying circumstances for me, the class and the school community.  Many of the parents and children of the class were angry about the fact that the previous popular teacher had moved to another position and about the way the change had been handled by the school administration.  I ended up teaching that class through a misunderstanding (that’s a trust story for another day) and while I worked very hard and did the best I could for that class, I didn’t feel that it was one of my most outstanding achievements as a teacher.  I felt that I was viewed as a poor substitute for the original teacher and that was how I viewed myself.

But maybe the parents’ perceptions of me weren’t as bad as I thought they were.  Susan has made a deliberate effort to make me feel welcome at the dance school.

And what did my invitation to Friday evening tapas remind me about trust?  Two things:

  • Trust within a parent group can be a powerful thing, whether it’s a dance studio, a football club or a school.  Many parents form their friendship groups through their children’s affiliations and those relationships go on over the years as the children change year and grade levels.  A parent group united in support of a cause is an amazing thing.  A parent group united against a cause is formidable in a different way.  A parent’s allegiance to their friends is likely to come before their allegiance to the institution.
  • Trust develops through repeated, everyday interactions and parents generally come to trust a teacher whose “walk” matches their “talk”.  It’s one thing to say that you care for a group of children but your everyday actions will prove whether this is true or not.

I am touched and humbled that Susan trusts me enough to welcome me into her circle of friends.

photo credit: <a href=””>Oude School</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Post Navigation