Building Teacher-Student Trust

Trust between teacher/instructor and the class is an interesting issue to ponder. Younger students are easy. As yet, most have no reason not to trust a teacher to help them learn. Older kids, on the other hand, come to class lacking trust in their instructor. Many have had negative experiences with teachers, and basically challenge the teacher to prove to them that he/she is worthy of trust. The same students also tend to make it difficult for a teacher to act in such a way as to earn trust.

So where does the trust start? It has to start with the educator.

But what is it that the whole issue of trust is about? How can the educator know where to start?

That’s easy. The educator needs to start by respecting every student in his/her class, regardless of the stories that precede the student into the room.

Here’s the hard part. The educator should assume that there is something good about the student from Hell, and find that good no matter how small that bit of positive energy is, or how hard it is to find. No matter how many times that student disrespects the teacher, the educator must ignore the negativity and keep looking for the positive. In addition, the teacher must do so for every student in the class while maintaining a positive outlook, generating ownership of the class by the students, and trying to come up with new and interesting activities or anecdotes to share with students so they stay (or get) involved in their own learning.

The bottom line is that, if the educator does not open up and offer trust, many students in the class will remain closed up and learn little–if they learn anything at all. Often, this is the sort of experience that causes teachers to burn out or lose hope. For those educators who continue to look for the positive in older students, however, the rewards are great–often translating into decades in the classroom with a reputation for excellent lessons instead of just two or three years and a reputation for not caring enough.

Interestingly, the teacher does not have to be a fascinating talker or presenter. The teacher can have terrible elocution skills and still become a favorite, and from whom students learn. It’s the caring and the continual strife for improvement that holds the students’ interest. It’s the fact that the teacher cares about what the students want to learn, or is willing to try means by which the students say they learn better. It’s the teacher’s work toward ensuring each students’ educational growth that earns him/her respect. Once there is respect, the foundation for trust has been laid.