Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “professionalism”

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 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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