Maintaining Trust, Boundaries and Community Through Remote Learning
As middle and high school educators frantically prepare to deliver “school” through virtual means, for an undetermined amount of time and in an uncertain world, I urge us to pause.
The conversation has been inundated with words like platform, tools, curriculum, content, flipped, live, loaded, and assessment. My hope for this conversation is that it turns back to what we already know. In order to survive and thrive young people need: safety and structure, belonging and membership, ability to contribute, self-awareness, control over one’s life, competence and mastery, and a close lasting relationship with an adult.
I also believe we are in unknown and potentially dangerous territory with such a quick launch into virtual learning. I have spent the last two years running professional development trainings that urge teachers to avoid building online relationships with young people. And now, here we are, asking educators to communicate solely with their students using online tools. There is a monumental opportunity in this shift, and an equal amount of risk.
The intentional building of trust and boundaries as a simultaneous practice in any healthy relationship is fundamental, whether in person or online. Through our commitment to meet student needs virtually, we cannot lose sight of the importance of explicit teacher to student boundaries.
Technology platforms for communication create a distance that lends itself to informality. Informality leads to boundary blur, and boundary blur can lead to the exploitation of an adult to child relationship. To keep educators and students safe we must be reminded that we are entering their space – their home physically, and their online social spaces virtually. Respectful consideration of these spaces is crucial, and adherence to all employee mandates, rules, regulations, and best boundary setting practices must be upheld.
Now, more than ever, young people need trusted adults committed to maintaining strong connections and healthy boundaries in an unrecognizable world. Let’s not compromise the heart of education for the delivery of school.