I’m struggling with the dichotomy of being a parent and being a teacher.
George Couros @gcouros just posted a list of potential interview questions on his blog, The Principal of Change. One of them struck me because it cuts straight to the heart of my current dilemma. He offers the following:
1. Are all consequences the same for each action in your classroom? Why or why not?
I have struggled with how to address the issue of equal consequences this week as a few of my more responsible students created teacher accounts on our online classroom, Edmodo. They violated the Edmodo terms and our own school Acceptable Use Policy.
Foolishly, I believed that elementary children are too young to think through the ramifications of the teacher account privileges. I actually shook my head when I read some posts by other teachers who had this problem with their students because I really didn’t think mine would do so. I didn’t address it directly because I didn’t want to put the idea into their heads if it wasn’t there already…. all I can say is that it took them 5 short weeks to learn how to use the tool well enough to find a way to work around the constraints.
Nonetheless, I have two students who knowingly lied to create an account online, and then invited classmates to their groups. The groups were amazing things, like one for Young Artists and one for Tech & Fun Times. Neat stuff. Good motivation and desire to collaborate. Bad initial decision.
As a parent, I have always believed that context and motivation are more important than the actual deed- it’s about heart attitude. I want to drag that into the classroom with me, but I hear a lot about the ‘rules’ being the same for everyone. I’m not sure I agree with that philosophy. In a family, fair is not when everyone gets the same thing, it’s when everyone gets what they need. Big difference.
In this case, I know my response would differ radically if one of my challenging students did the same thing. In fact, I believe my knee-jerk response for one of those kids would be to yank them out of the online classroom and make them do something silly, like typing, every computer lab. However, that does nothing to teach them better Digital Citizenship skills or helps them grapple with online ethical issues. I knew that using an online classroom would grant me multiple opportunities for real-life digital citizenship and internet safety teachable moments…. and that’s one of the main reasons we are using one. Now that I have my first ‘serious’ offense, I’m not quite sure how to handle it. It’s more difficult because of the students involved, and my desire to show grace and at the same time be fair to other students.
Actually, I think I am talking apples and oranges. I can’t even compare the two because it would not have been the ‘same thing’. If one of my challenging students had tried this, it would have been behind my back,not in front of my face, and it would have been with mean-spirited groups and exclusivity, rather than curious learning centered ones and inclusivity. It is different.
I’m still not sure if there will be additional consequences beyond a sobering discussion, a warning, and a written apology to the creators of Edmodo for misusing the tool and creating additional work for them in deleting accounts and groups. I know that these students are already showing contrition and remorse. They immediately apologized, and deleted their posts. In the context of this situation, these students were trying to create a group about a topic to share with everyone. They are consistently trustworthy and respectful. In the context of my relationship with them, they made a single bad choice in a stream of wonderful decisions.
What do you do? Do you believe the consequences are the same for all students? I’m not sure I do. Life is not fair. People are different. Children are different. They each have individual needs, strengths and weaknesses. Do we differentiate instruction, and then fail to differentiate when it comes to behavior issues?
Guess I need to get this one figured out before I start applying for jobs, huh?
Image courtesy of stock.xchng