Think about how many people you really trust—people who have your best interests at heart and who would sacrifice their own interests for you. How many? Three, maybe five? One?
Why is trust so rare? There are people that we love dearly but cannot trust completely. It takes strength and courage to trust and also to be trustworthy.
Twenty years as a teacher of community college English brought me to the belief that trust is at the core of meaningful teaching. It can transform the dynamics in our classrooms as well as the inner lives of our students. The goal of this blog is to examine how teachers can cultivate an environment of trust among our students and in ourselves.
Over the past few years, as I committed more to the philosophy of trust, I found myself changing everything I was doing in teaching. I scrapped many well-thought-out lesson plans, recreated assignments with fewer rules and more critical thinking, and most daringly, abandoned traditional grading. These changes were and are scary, but the results have been palpable. When I practice trust with my students, they work hard for me, and their efforts are genuine. Many find their intrinsic love of learning, which has been hiding all this time.
Trust also means no micromanaging my students. So much about school is about rule setting and rule following, which has a basis in distrust. Instead, I want to empower my students to create their own learning, take risks, and make mistakes.
If my students know that I trust them, they might begin to believe in their own capabilities as thinkers, readers, writers, and ongoing learners. Ideally, they will stop mindlessly obeying and start thinking for themselves. They will develop real curiosity about their own ideas and about the world.
In a collaborative classroom, learning depends upon the trust that students have in each other. A crucial part of my job is to create conditions where my students feel safe to speak publicly about their ideas and experiences. I want my students to listen to and hear each other, ask each other questions, and respectfully voice disagreement or alternative perspectives.
Finally, as a teacher, I can do the most good if I trust myself—if I trust my good intentions, my knowledge, my experience, and yes, my intuition. Trust in myself means that I will dare to try new things in the classroom. If my students indeed trust me, I can let my guard down in front of them. I can feel safe to be myself. I can even feel safe to fail. These failures are not actually failures at all, but openings into deeper learning.
Thank you for stopping by.