Building Trust with Brene Brown’s Permission

As I transition to standards based grading in CS, I am going to need the trust of my parents and students. High school parents can be laser focused on a GPA, often with little understanding of how that is calculated -or how it might not be impacted by one quiz grade. But now, I need their trust from a computer. I can’t build that trust through small classroom interactions, if they don’t trust me from the outset – we are going to sink.

It is probably important to note that my reputation outside of Room 112 is that I am intimidating. Admittedly, I am loud and excited and we work quickly, and people always think CS teachers are smart. But it came as a shock to me that both peers and students describe me primarily as intimidating. I look on the bright side that perhaps this intimidation is tied to high expectations and at least they didn’t say I was incompetent. But, warm and fuzzy I am not.

I want to spend the first few days establishing some digital classroom norms with the students. I also want to convey that while they are sitting in their respective homes, they are not alone, and this is weird for us all. But, when your initial impression is intimidating, how do you do that?

So I have been reading books and watching TED talks and listening to podcasts and talking to peers. And all my peers have amazing activities that I am both jealous of their creativity and of their emotional connection to their students.

The first lesson of Room 112 for students is “you are going to make a mistake.” It may be syntax, it may be logic, it may be silly, but you are going to write more broken code in that first week than you can imagine. This is hard for motivated high school students in a classroom where they can raise their hand and ask for quiet assistance. But now, now we are all in this Zoom together. So now I need them to trust me AND their peers not to mock. And teenagers are excellent mockers.

Enter Brene Brown (where has this been all my teaching life?)

“Permission slips can be useful tools for teaching us to give thought to what we might need from ourselves and others”

Brene Brown: Integration Ideas Permission Slips

What a genius idea. It is simple, it is clear. I understand the purpose of a permission slip and so will the children. We can create them for the first week, for the first test, for the first of everything we do. They an be a theme through the course or a tool for just this first week. Brene Brown where have you been all my life

Here is my permission slip for the first day of online class.

I am working on a the bones of a lesson plan, but I think each student will be given the template to build a permission slip during synchronous class time. Then the next day I can share some class ideas without naming the author or putting an individual student on the spot, cause trust me that my teenage self would not have been comfortable sharing with her classsmates.


Published by MaryClair Wright

High School Computer Science Teacher in Alabama.

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