Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Student privacy issues in the classroom

In the past week I discovered reading journals on the floor at the end of the day that were supposed to be taken home for daily homework reading with parents or caregivers. This told me my students were not doing their home reading, and their parents were not following this up either.

My initial reaction was to check all my students desks to see how many were just ignoring their readings, which turned out to be a good half to my shame ( I am trying to cultivate learners who are responsible for their own learning). I have since done this twice this week and sent a few notes home to parents asking them to check that their children were actually reading to them!

Well today one student said, "my mom says you are invading our privacy." Although I was initially annoyed because my concern is for their learning and I would think the parent's first concern should be that too, I realised that actually that student and the 'mom' were right (on that point at least). I want my privacy respected and they should have the same right, but I still have to be able to monitor their learning because no one else is and they certainly are not showing the 'responsiblity' that goes with 'rights'.

After a brief panic I decided to brainstorm with my students what they considered personal and therefore private, verses what they considered learning material that I had a right and a responsiblitiy to be able to access. The photo above shows our brainstorm. The results of our following discussion were agreed by all.

During schol hours their desks were their private areas (toys are never allowed), but all items we classified as personal and private should be taken home every day. We agreed anyone leaving personal items in their desk after these hours were agreeing that only I as their teacher may open their desks to review their learning books and monitor what they were leaving at school.

I am really pleased this issue came up as it protects us all against future missunderstandings and ensures we all understand that the classroom is a learning environment, not their personal storage space away from home. It also will provide a step toward learning about copyright and other privacy issues that we will cover later in the year.

I would be interested if any other teachers have an opinion on this subject.