By Brian D. Long, Guest Contributor
This article, “Trust in Participatory Action Community Engaged Partnerships: Relationships and Historic Trauma Matter,” made it clear that the lack of trust can be detrimental to any existing partnership and a stumbling block to any attempts at starting any new working relationship. It amazes me that the same means that are used to help one person is also the same thing that can cause hurt in someone else.
The article spoke on past research groups using the people in the community to get something they needed, but mentioned that a major problem with the process was the lack of reciprocity for the community.
Statements were made that members of the community felt like they didn’t get anything in return for their help and transparency throughout the different phases of the interviewing and research procedures. Furthermore, community members felt that the situations they raised awareness to didn’t change after the data was collected.
I see a significant correlation with how the education system works. Educators collect data, in hopes to see causes and effects to whatever they are researching. However, in all that researching and data collecting, nothing significant ever really changes for the student community in most cases, at least not meaningful changes for the student that affects them directly.
I believe the data we collect in the school is beneficial to us, but not the students. With that, I think schools and districts are extremely good at convincing the students and families to celebrate the successes the individual schools say they should be joyful about, rather than listening to and valuing what the family and community stakeholders may view as a significant trade off for their participation.
As an educator, I sometimes get the feeling that school districts believe that they know what’s best for the child more so than their actual parent or guardian does. Districts come up with different narratives and scenarios and tell the families what they need to know and what is good or bad based on data collected. I truly believe that takes the respect and recognition of the parents and families as a valuable component to the child’s learning out of the school and student relationship.
The article spoke on historical trauma and the lack of trust it manifests. This made me think about the students that have a history of hating school and struggling academically. How is that fixed? I have seen data collected on reading readiness, math appropriateness, test-based skills implementation, and science inquiry, but I haven’t seen anything studied or collected about how to break down walls in order to gain that trust.
I do not understand how resources are divided up within a school district, but it seems to me that not all problems are solved by implementing more academic programs or learning-based projects. Do not get me wrong; those things are wonderful and a great asset. However, what good do they do if the student’s greatest barrier is not a learning gap, but a trusting gap? Actually, when it is said that way, then I guess it is a learning gap.
So that leads to the question: How do you teach a student that doesn’t trust you enough to learn from you? The domino effect of this question is crucial because it creates an “Us vs. Them” type of mentality. The teachers are frustrated because their employment is performed-based and if the students aren’t performing then the teacher is out of a job potentially. On the other hand, the student will lack growth because he or she doesn’t trust the teacher enough to let their guard down and be vulnerable enough to allow learning to occur.
Brian D. Long is an Educational Leadership Master of Arts student in the IU School of Education at IUPUI.