A Village’s Work: Raising, Valuing, and Guiding a Child

In a recent OECD PISA Students’ Well-Being Study (2015) conducted to 540, 000 students in 72 participating countries and economies, student anxiety about school work and tests was seen to be related with how supportive their teachers and schools are to the students and not to how long the students stay in school or prepare for the test. The study further dug deeper and revealed that bullying is still the top issue in schools, with a statistical estimate that 1 student per class is bullied a few times a month.

 

In the Philippines, the Department of Education reported 1, 700 cases of bullying in schools during the academic year 2013-2014. The number, however and fortunately, continues to decline, especially since the introduction of the 2012 Dep Ed Child Protection Policy. As the fight against bullying continues, new forms of bullying continue to grip the youth and young students as access to social media and ownership of mobile devices continue to increase dramatically. Cases of cyberbullying have widely spread. i-SAFE Foundation reported that 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats. The Cyberbullying Research Center revealed that mobile phones have been the most common medium of cyber bullying, which is predominantly in ways such as receiving mean or hurtful comments and being the topic of rumors.

Role of Teachers and Schools in the Well-Being of Students

The same OECD PISA study also revealed that teachers, schools, and parents play in an important role in supporting the performance, disposition, and total well-being of students as they navigate school life. OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos further emphasized that students will perform better if they feel valued, well-treated, and guided. The study remarked that there was a lower number of bullying in schools that fostered positive relationships between students and teachers. Hence, the challenge right now is for everyone in the school community to make students feel that they are valued and guided. In order to this, schools must become safe places for students. Safety here encompasses a lot of meaning. It can mean safety from external threats, whether physical, verbal, or psychological abuses, that harm the being of a person in every way imaginable. It can also mean giving them a learning environment where they are allowed to take risks, commit mistakes, and learn from these beautiful mishaps.

Some Ways to Foster a Fun and Safe Learning Environment

The goal to achieve a safe and engaging learning space or environment is easier said than done. No magic formula, short cut, or perfect model exists for this challenge since it is important to always consider the contexts of the students. Some schools and countries may need to consider threats to security that could result loss of lives. Some might consider safety in learning acquisition. However, the comforting reality is that there are numerous techniques or programs that may be put in place to help foster a fun and safe classroom. Let me take this opportunity to share some that I or my school have put in place.

  1. Promotion of Growth Mindset

The unnecessary addiction to perfection or even to high grades is not helpful to students. Often times, these expectations bring pressure to our learners that entails stress and decline of self-confidence. Introduction and promotion of growth mindset gives the learner the capacity to take risks, explore, apply, and try new learnings without the fear of being reprimanded. Mistakes are not taken against the learner. Instead, they become means for more relevant learnings to happen. As I wrote in one of my blogs:

Risk-taking is also an important aspect in promoting growth mindset. Students tend to shy away from taking risks because they are very well aware of the consequences, which normally point to point deductions, comparisons to others who have done well, or even simply, being ignored because another student had done better. Yet, risk-taking is needed in the real world. Indeed, there are consequences for the decisions we risk in real life and some of them can be really difficult to handle. Giving space or opportunities for risk-taking in the classroom does not aim for the students to perfect the act of taking risks so that there will be no mistakes or that the risk taken would always equate to success. We are actually letting them learn how to navigate the consequences so that they won’t get stuck on the mistakes and move on to do something better about it. Some students who have neither taken risk nor failed in the classroom find it difficult to manage the consequences of failures in the real world, which often result to some emotional challenges or issues that affect one’s well-being.

  1. Virtues Project

In the grade school where I teach, the whole school community re-oriented our way of seeing and dealing with student behaviors through going back to the basics of promoting virtues through the “Virtues Project.” The project was not simply about introducing virtues such as respect, self-discipline, or peacefulness to our students. More importantly, it was about letting the students be familiar and mindful of how their actions can affect their classmates, teachers, or even those around them. We wanted to make sure that we speak in the language of the virtues, which highlights the nature of the action more than the person. Hence, instead of saying: “Keep quiet!” or “You are noisy or rowdy,” teachers can say “Let us practice the virtue of peacefulness” or “I believe that we can still practice the virtue of self-discipline.” Calling out the virtues help in emphasizing and inculcating good actions in the mind of students and helping them realize that they are capable of doing such things and hence, being kind to others.

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  1. Effective and Reflective Anti-Bullying campaign.

A few years ago, my school launched the “Not in My School” anti-bullying campaign to address bullying issues. It was a systematic effort and work. All members of the community, including the administrators, teachers, students, and non-teaching personnel, were involved in it. Students were empowered to speak out about bullying cases or incidents that they witness. The crucial role of a by-stander was emphasized. Different subjects in class participated in the campaign. Teachers were trained to understand and properly respond to bullying cases. Our experiences with our anti-bullying campaigns in the past years taught us to work for, design, and execute sustainable anti-bullying campaigns. Parents were also involved as parent forums were opened for parents to talk about and discuss the issues and challenges surrounding bullying.

  1. Integration of Digital Citizenship in the Curriculum

Digital citizenship covers concepts and skills that teachers, technology leaders, school administrators, and parents should teach and develop in students or technology users for them to use technology tools appropriately. Schools should establish clear digital citizenship programs that empower and help students know what to do if there are unfortunate cases of cyber-bullying or other forms of digital threats. The program should also introduce core virtues such as empathy, respect, prudence, honesty, and kindness among others. However, it should also be integrated in the school curriculum so that the digital citizenship skills are deeply applied to what the students regularly do in the classroom. It should also be the responsibility of all teachers in the school and not just their computer or technology teacher.

In our school, we also empowered our students to become digital by-standers or even to report or call out classmates or other people who engages in these kinds of digital threats. As a 1:1 iPad school, my school prioritizes digital citizenships skills to be reviewed and further strengthened every beginning of the school year. Parents and teacher also undergo digital citizenship workshops. I have written a separate blog about this topic which can be accessed HERE.

Continuous Challenge

Fostering a safe and engaging learning space where students can thrive requires a lot of preparations, critical planning, careful execution, and constant evaluation. However, to become effective, these programs should be systematic and should involve every member of the community. It is not just the work of a teacher, but of all teachers, students, parents, and non-teaching staff. After all, it really takes a village to raise and make a child feel valued and guided.

 

 

Sources:

Bullying Statistics (n.d.). Cyber Bullying Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html

No Bullying (2015). Cyber Bullying in The Philippines. Retrieved from: http://nobullying.com/cyber-bullying-in-the-philippines/

OECD (2017). Most teenagers happy with their lives but schoolwork anxiety and bullying an issue. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/education/most-teenagers-happy-with-their-lives-but-schoolwork-anxiety-and-bullying-an-issue.htm

 

 

 

 

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Why Digital Citizenship Matters?

According to TeenSafe, in 2016, 87% of today’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying while 34% personally experienced cyberbullying. Among the surveyed students, 15% have admitted to cyberbullying others, while 24% said they did not know what to do if they would be harassed online. Most commonly reported types of cyberbullying includes spreading rumours and experiencing hurtful comments based on physical looks, race, religion, and sexuality in social media platforms. Negative impact on the victim, such as low self-esteem, development of self-harming behaviours, and suicidal thoughts, follows the experience of cyberbullying.

 

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#DigCit – Why it Matters?

Cyberbullying is just one of the many unfortunate and unnecessary ill-effects of the proliferation of technology tools. Some sees tech tools, such the iPad, Internet, mobile phones, and social media platforms, as the source of these problems and so, reactively remove or ban them in school or classroom premises. While there might be valid reasons behind these courses of actions, empowering students, parents, teachers, and everyone in the school community with the necessary digital skills is the more proactive and essential answer to these unending issues and challenges. This is why digital citizenship matters!

What’s Digital Citizenship?

In simple terms, digital citizenship is the norms of appropriate and responsible use of technology. In school setting, digital citizenship covers concepts and skills that teachers, technology leaders, school administrators, and parents should teach and develop in students or technology users for them to use technology tools appropriately. Digital citizenship covers areas such digital security, literacy, rights, use, and digital-emotional intelligence among others.

9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.001

The importance of digital citizenship makes it a necessary area to be included in a school or district’s technology program framework. It is not enough to focus on ensuring that the physical infrastructure is ready or that the whole school or district is wired or has purchased the necessary devices. It is not enough to train teachers or staff about the pedagogical and technical aspect of teaching with tech in the classroom. Teachers should also be armed with the skill to direct students to use technology properly. Digital citizenship is not external to the student’s experience in a technology-rich learning environment. It is an integral part of it.

How to Promote Digital Citizenship?

  1. Digital citizenship should be embedded in every tech-integrated lesson or learning activity. For example, when students are taught to research or gather information about a certain topic from the Internet, they should know how to properly search for information, credit authors properly, or even to critically evaluate their sources. When students are taught to collaborate online, they must know the proper way or the accepted and expected behaviour in sharing, listening, accepting or disagreeing with the opinions of other people. When students are taught to share their learnings to the public audience via the Internet, then they must also know how to protect the private aspect of their lives.
  2. Involve parents in the digital citizenship program of the school. After school, students spend the rest of their time at home. Sometimes, they are even left alone with their mobile devices. During these unguarded moments, any form of cyber attack or cyber danger can pop out in front of the learner. Involving parents and discussing with them the importance of and the different ways to promote digital citizenship even at home can support the school’s program. The partnership between schools and parents solidifies and reinforces the program in all aspects.
  3. Design meaningful and effective digital citizenship program that caters to the student’s context/ needs and is a product of school community collaboration. There are numerous online resources which can help teachers or schools draft their own digital citizenship program. Sites such as Common Sense Media and Google for Education have excellent resources for embedding digital citizenship in daily classroom encounters. However, the most important aspect of creating and implementing a digital citizenship program is to really involve every member of the school community so that all areas will be covered. Getting contributions from each member of the community gives the message that every one’s idea is important and vital to the framework.
  4. Model digital citizenship. Students shouldn’t only be the ones who are practicing digital citizenship. Teachers and parents should also be role models to effectively develop digital citizenship skills among learners.

#DigCit in 1 minute

Here is a short-video from the 1-Minute Professional Learning, a team that works on bite-size professional learning videos for teachers, on the importance of digital citizenship. The team’s videos are accessible at: http://facebook.com/1minutePL/