Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “student behavior”

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 adrielbooker.com

Image courtesy of adrielbooker.com

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 badges

Earning badges for achievements is nothing new. Organisations like Scouts and Guides have been doing it for years.

640px-US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors

 

Digital badging is newer.

Openbadges

With the rise of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), there has been a rise in the use of digital badges as a recognition of the holder ‘s achievement and a proof that the holder has done what he/she claims to have done, although the use of badges is not confined to MOOCs.

Grant and Shawgo  have annotated a bibliography of sources which offer information and opinions on different aspects of the badge system.

A major issue associated with the badge system is the notion of trust, i.e. whether an employer or person authorised to grant accreditation for prior learning can trust the validity of a badge and the rigour of the learning behind it.

So far there is little evidence of the badge system in use in Australian schools although schools of distance education are diversifying their offerings beyond the traditional provision for remote students.  In time a badge will perhaps replace a certificate upon completion of the course.

Proponents envision a robust, valuable and open system of accreditation.  Leslie (2013) writes, “the value of the system overall increases as more nodes join and a large, robust network emerges over time”.

I have been experimenting with badges in the classroom this year – they’re not digital and they’re linked to behaviour outcomes rather than academic outcomes.  The primary school system in Australia is not quite ready for that yet!

IMG_0082

Our classroom system works this way:

  1. Students earn a card for displaying a particular behaviour that I want to encourage (e.g. good listening, following instructions, being kind to someone)
  2. When a student has five cards the same, they “cash them in” to earn a badge which they display on their desk.  They also earn a sticker for their chart which is the school wide reward system.
  3. Another five cards earns a badge of a different colour, which is higher in value.  Bronze is followed by silver, then gold, platinum, pearl, emerald…

Trust is involved when:

  • I tell a student that he/she has earned a card and they collect it from the box on my desk at a convenient time.  I am probably not near the box when they collect the cards.IMG_0084
  • A student cashes in their cards and writes on a post-it note which badge they have earned.  Again, I am probably not near the box so I don’t see how many cards they have deposited or what type they are.

The system is ripe for abuse but very little is happening.  I have assumed that I can trust the children in my care and I believe they have acted in a trustworthy way because the non-tangible rewards for being trusted are better that the tangible rewards for betraying trust.

 

Photo credits:

“US Navy 081004-N-5345W-021 Cub Scouts prepare to parade the colors” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher S. Wilson – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 081004-N-5345W-021 Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors.jpg

“Openbadges” by Anyashy – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Openbadges.png#mediaviewer/File:Openbadges.png

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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