being a student, being a teacher, student choice, student voice

When We Forget to Ask – On Student Privacy and Sharing All the Good

I was schooled in student privacy the first time I asked to take my students online.  Protect, teach, and keep them safe were drilled into me as we connected and explored the online world.   I thought I pretty much  knew what I couldn’t share; all the sensitive or bad stuff, and thought I knew what I could share; all the good stuff.  I thought all of my students wanted to share their blogs.  That all of my students wanted their accomplishments made public.  That when they did well they, of course, they wanted the world to know.  After all, we are a culture driven by success stories.

Yet, year after year my thinking has been challenged.  First by a 4th grader who told me she had no need for a certificate stapled to her math test as it made something private public.  Then by a 5th grader that dared to ask why I assumed he would want his blog to be public.  And finally, last year by a 7th grader who told me to tell the world that no one else had the right to know that she was on the honor roll.

Every time a student has challenged me, I have learned something.  Every time they have stood up for their own privacy, I have been reminded of my own flippancy.  Every time, I feel the urge to share all of the good I remember that I do not automatically have the right, that the students also have the right to say no, that that is not just something we leave up to parents.

So I speak for my students who challenged me to rethink my stance in privacy.  I speak for those kids that asked me to think before I shared.  Not just for the parents who said no, but for the kids that never said yes.

So before you publish that honor roll.

Before you make that blog public.

Before you move their clip to the positive zone or give them that point (“Ding!”) or hand them that award.

Before you tweet that picture, or print it, or email it, or share it with the world.

Before you use that student example (name redacted of course).

Before you share that great learning moment with the world.

Before you share what a kid has done.  Even if it was amazing.

Please ask them if you may.

Please ask them if they would be alright with the whole world (potentially) seeing their thoughts, their work, their accomplishment.

Please ask them if they would like the attention that may come from it or if they would rather not be celebrated publicly.

And if they say no, respect it.

We assume that every kid wants to be praised in public.

We assume that every kid wants to be honored in public.

We assume that every kid wants to share their great grades in public.

But we don’t know every kid.

So ask them first.

Their answer may surprise you.

I know it certainly surprised me.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.


6 thoughts on “When We Forget to Ask – On Student Privacy and Sharing All the Good”

  1. Yes, always ask first; and as educators we need to remember that we often give mixed messages; consider how you started the blog: “Protect, teach and keep them safe,” and being public may not feel safe for it might single and draw attention to a child who was simply behaving “naturally” in “achieving” and hadn’t desired extra attention. Also there is the culture of the classroom and of the school; have observed students who chose not to be front of centre and this is okay too- especially if sharing their work with the teacher garnered the praise and was enough for them to continue to participate and produce strong work.

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