Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “parents”

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.

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.

Teach children to be trustworthy

Two articles about digital citizenship caught my attention today.

The first was on the Mindshift blog and asked how schools and parents should be involved in kids’ online lives.

The author, Matt Levinson, acknowledges the blurred lines between home and school information when that information is online.  He asks whether schools should be involved in what students do online when they are not at school and concludes that there is enough overlap between the school and home online worlds that it is reasonable for schools to involve themselves.

His focus in that post is on open social media sites.

He advises that instead of instilling a stranger-danger-type fear into children, schools and parents should encourage children to ask themselves some questions about what sort of contact with strangers is appropriate and what sort of response to make if contacted online by a stranger.

What can we do to stop cyber-bullying?

What can we do to stop cyber-bullying?

The second article came from the Sunday Mail.  Cyber bullies turn web into the superhighway to hell by Kylie Lang explores three disturbing cases of teenage suicide after cyber-bullying.

Ms Lang concludes that there is valuable advice to be found on protecting children through the use of filters and monitoring but asks whether there is a bigger question that we are not asking…

doesn’t our children’s use of technology also come down to how they are taught in the first place to respect themselves and others?

Ms Lang goes on:

Social media might be a new form of communication but the old rules apply: treat others as you’d like to be treated; if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, don’t say it at all.

The best way to deal with a bully is to ignore them, and if you can’t, report them.

Cyber-bullying expert Associate Professor Marilyn Campbell, of Queensland University of Technology, says it is essential for teachers, parents and students to “create a culture of reporting”.

In other words, let’s teach them to be good digital citizens.

We can’t assume that children will act in a trustworthy and respectful way if we haven’t taught them how to do so.

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

BYOT – the missing ingredient

When a school has decided to introduce 1:1 technology or BYOT, the checklist goes something like this:

  •   curriculum implications considered
  •   budgeting done
  •   timeline planned
  •   infrastructure in place (server or cloud adequate for needs, wireless coverage, internet bandwidth)
  •   security policy thought out (passwords, registering devices)
  •   device chosen (if 1:1)
  •   teachers given professional development
  •   parents and students notified and ready…
  •   culture of trust established???

All of the items above require thought, research and action and all are necessary steps for schools about to embark on major change, technical or otherwise.  Establishing a culture of trust is a process that takes a lot of time – longer even than the time to develop a budget and have it approved, believe it or not.


Trust has the potential to exist on many levels in a school community – between

  • teachers and students,
  • teachers and parents,
  • teachers and teachers,
  • teachers and administrative staff (i.e. principals and deputy principals),
  • teachers and their employing body,
  • students and parents,
  • parents and administrative staff,
  • parents and parents,
  • students and administrative staff.

Its presence or absence can make a world of difference.

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