Privacy, Trust and Voice

For the past few hours, I’ve thought, rethought, written and erased…over and over again. In between going back and forth, I got to experience the vile realities of twitter trolls…people creating accounts for the sole purpose of saying the most unreal, racist, sexist, body shaming…things to me. Clearly, speaking out against the “media interpretation” of awesome teaching ruffled some feathers.

And yet, I am still stuck at…

How do I best convey why #IWishmyteacherknew is not just a “bad thing” but a “Oh heck no” thing….

First let me say that I am an advocate for student voice. I believe wholeheartedly in not just hearing from kids but fully including them in the education process. I have also called out the educational community, on a number of occasions, about equity, community and decision making with students and families of poverty.

So, naturally I was intrigued by this campaign as the example that I saw was mild. It was the child wishing for friends. I shared it and then I read the article…many articles. I was mortified because those shares were not just “students sharing their thoughts”….those shares were “students sharing personal family experiences”.

In the age of social media, this is NOT good…not at all.

You see…aside from this teacher, and the colorful index cards of notes that she tweeted, there are families who are also connected…families who have children in her class…in the community…families who have facebook, twitter…the evening news.

No family should have to hear that what their child was feeling and shared with their teacher was posted to social media while watching the news. Talk about being blindsided…

Now, before you go all, “She had to have had permission” on me…

Let me be clear in saying that this teacher was asked on multiple occasions about permissions and the only permission that she seemed to have had was from the kids. They are 8 and 9 years old….sharing personal FAMILY details. If those thoughts were shared without parental consent, this is a problem…a Big one!!

I even consulted with my sister who is blind on this issue and I asked what she would do if she saw that my nephew wrote to his teacher about issues that should have been discussed with her but were instead shared online. Let’s just say that if that happened, a visit to the school and superintendent would have been in order.

There are quite a few who demand that this teacher was “brave” in selflessly sharing the voices of her students. No…the bravery was in the kids who wrote them. I personally find it quite exploitive that following the viral state of her shares…were tweets to give to her donors choose projects. That’s not brave. That is called pushing an agenda. Those tweets were auto tweeted to anyone that used that hashtag…same verbiage…even to me.

In addition…I need to alert the greater world that…


Newsflash: Millions of children in this country live through extreme poverty or unreal living situations. As a matter of fact, if you extend this prompt across the nation…you may even hear stories about…

  • Homelessness
  • Abuse
  • Divorce
  • Neglect
  • Drugs/Alcohol
  • Depression (as a matter of fact, a teacher actually shared a student saying that they had depression via this hashtag)
  • Starvation
  • Lack of guidance
  • Struggle
  • Worry/Concern
  • Lack of resources/supplies

You may even hear about kids who are poor but still happy. Those stories exist too. (You didn’t read many of those though) Even with the pieces of story shared are parents, siblings and extended family members. There are multiple sides that are not considered. There are parents who work late and hard to support their kids. Often, kids at that age do not connect with that. Imagine that working mother reading that her kid needed her in a news article online…and feeling the guilt 10x over beyond what she may already feel.

Maybe that’s not the story. Maybe it is. We don’t know though.

(Anonymity does not exist in this case for these families because original work with handwriting was published. Most parents know how their own kids write. Again…minus consent = problematic)

Sharing student work is done across the edu-sphere in all forms. This was different. This wasn’t just “work”.

We were reading notes, written in the original handwriting of students (locally identifiable…If I am a parent of a child in that class, I can simply ask my child or use community knowledge to know who those kids were and which families they were. Community shaming is real. That is unfair…period!)

But…tell me…Did you really need to see it written in the handwriting of students to know that those problems existed? Were you completely oblivious to the real state of the american child that it took the “Freedom Writer-ish” act of a “still new at this teacher” to connect with the fact that our kids need help because the world sucks and they feel it?

You should probably check your privilege because if you are too blind or disconnected to see the world around you and know that kids are affected without needing them to pour their hearts out onto colored index cards for the world to read…you are a part of the problem.

These shares are doing nothing more than what they are already doing…

…Exploiting the struggles of families

Yes people…families are stuggling…lots of them!

Student work is not owned by teachers or schools. We have zero right to share their progress, thoughts or examples. That right belongs to families and unless we get permission from parents and/or students…when they can legally consent…we have no business putting their thoughts on the web.

No, I am not muting kids. It is about ethics. It is about what is right and wrong.

One of the many twitter trolls that I had today reminded me that at the beginning of the school year, parent permissions to share student work are sent and retrieved. Let me guarantee you that parents who sign those forms did not count on their personal lives being shared. There is no way.

If this is the practice in your school or district, it is time to revisit that.

One more thing…

I am most disappointed in an educational community that turned a blind eye to this in public and were not strong enough to speak up for what we know is right concerning student/family privacy…until it became apparent that silence wasn’t the best option. It shouldn’t have to be me or any of the other educolor group members to push these discussions. Silence means that everyone loses.

If you were silent on this issue…what lessons can you possibly teach kids about the same?

In case you missed it…

We do not own student work. We cannot share personal thoughts of kids without consent. Trust matters.

My son shared a personal narrative with his teacher last week. He did it because he has great trust in her as another caring adult. Let’s hope that she does not betray that trust.