Trust in education

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

Archive for the tag “teenage 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

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 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.

I don’t want to sit with someone I can’t trust

Four years ago my daughter (A) then aged 10, was the victim of some low-level bullying.  I reported it and was satisfied with the way her teacher and the school administration handled it.

School is a social minefield for girls.

School is a social minefield for girls.

A year later she had made friends with another group of girls.  The main bully from the previous group undermined that friendship by telling the alpha female of the second group (B) that A had been telling them stories about her and her group.  This wasn’t true.  B believed it anyway and told A that she didn’t want her to sit with her group anymore at lunchtime because she couldn’t trust her.

A lot of heartache and soul-searching followed for A as she questioned why two groups had turned on her in as many years but over the course of the next couple of years and a bit more maturity on everyone’s part, she came to be friends with both the alpha females again, albeit with a bit of reserve in both relationships.

Every now and again something comes up between A and B – something one of them says will bring back old memories.  Today B told A that she never said “I don’t want to sit with someone I can’t trust”.  Her memory is that A said it to her and then didn’t speak to her for a year.

Secondary school is sometimes a social minefield.  My daughter is learning that there are fair-weather friends who can’t always be trusted and don’t always have an accurate view of reality.

Steve Biddulph wrote in a recent post about teenage girls and how they learn how to be women.  He wrote

The problem is – they won’t get this from other girls, at least not in a wise calm way. According to Professor Deborah Rickwood of Brainspace, girls who discuss their problems among themselves can often make each other worse not better. They need to be around adults. That’s the thing we have most misunderstood about teenagers – especially the early teens – we shouldn’t just leave them alone.

One of the trust relationships in the school context is student-student and in some ways it’s the hardest for schools to influence.  For girls the presence of strong, admirable, trustworthy and supportive female teachers in their lives does make a difference.  My feisty, stubborn and cynical daughter, who loves to dance but detests any other form of exercise and thinks she’s bad at anything athletic, just did a Physical Education unit with a teacher who encouraged and inspired her and made her want to do more physical activity.

This teacher did nothing pedagogically remarkable.  In fact she told me that while she had run the theory section of the unit online in the past, she had reverted to paper this time because she felt it worked better.

What is remarkable is her commitment to supporting her students.  I’m glad my daughter had the chance to work with and be inspired by this admirable woman.

Photo credit: <a href=””>Eric.Parker</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

I trust you not to go on Facebook in my class

My son received a detention for being off-task during class.  He was using his laptop to visit Reddit.  His friend who received one around the same time was checking the basketball scores.  The rule at school is that you don’t use websites in class that are not related to the work you’re doing so I think it’s fair enough that they got  detentions.  They knew the rules and chose to break them.

It was what came next that bothered me.  In addition to the standard letter sent home to parents when a student is given a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning detention, an email  was sent to my son by the Head of Department expressing her disappointment and her belief that he was not “a man of integrity”.


Of course he’s not a man of integrity.  He’s 15 years old and subject to the same struggles to control his thoughts, actions and impulses that every 15 year-old faces.  As a “How Stuff Works” article explains, it is “the combination of that prefrontal cortex and a heightened need for reward that drives some of the most frustrating teenage behavior”.

An adult’s prefrontal cortex is more likely to curb impulses and our brains are more able to delay gratification.  If the likely negative consequences outweigh the positive benefits of our impulses, we can generally manage not to give in to them.  We can wait until a more appropriate time to check our favourite social media sites or the basketball scores but if we’re honest, many of us would admit that we find it tempting to stay on Farmville just a minute longer, to visit just one more internet store before we go to bed, to just check our personal email or Facebook before we get down to work.

How can we expect students whose brains are still developing to do more than we can manage to do ourselves?  And how can we condemn their characters when they fail to live up to expectations many of us can’t live up to?

Of course class time shouldn’t be a free-for-all to do anything you like just because you have the technological ability in front of you.  Every classroom needs routines and management procedures that help it to function efficiently and allow learning to occur.

But how about we use students’ non-serious misdemeanours (the checking the basketball scores-type misdemeanour as opposed to the inappropriate website-viewing-type misdemeanour) as an opportunity for learning – for us and them?  For example, we can help them to learn that multi-tasking is a myth and that it is possible to develop self-control.  We can learn that something about our class is not engaging them enough to stay on task.

And if we build students’ trust in us to support them and help them learn from their mistakes, we can perhaps build enough respect that they will want to try to honour our requests and obey our rules.

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

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