“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” ~ Anton Chekhov
As a junior high school administrator, I sometimes catch myself imagining worst case scenarios when planning activities that involve students. The phrase, “what if”, gets thrown around a little too liberally. What if the kids don’t behave? What if they say something inappropriate? What if they don’t do it right? Or worst of all…what if they do something that embarrasses me?
What a horrible way to approach the planning process. The sad thing about this is that high expectations and lack of trust are mutually exclusive. How can we say we have high expectations for student performance if we have reservations about our students’ ability to take ownership in their learning and make good decisions?
Good teaching requires that we trust our students. Not always an easy thing to do, but think of the alternative: too much structure, teacher centered instruction, stifled creativity, and students as consumers.
Think about these questions as a quick check of your level of trust:
- How often do your kids engage in cooperative learning activities?
- Do you allow students freedom to pursue their own interests within your curriculum?
- How often do you feel compelled to provide students with handouts, outlines, or specific directions for classroom activities?
- What is your “teacher talk to student discussion” ratio?
- Would you be comfortable with the feedback you would receive if students were asked to assess your teaching? (I believe that student feedback is a valuable resource that is drastically underused–but that is another post)
Students have a lot to offer, but sometimes our lack of trust prevents them from meaningful participation as members of our school communities. If we are to move away from a “factory model” of education, we need to listen to our students, give them opportunities to pursue what is meaningful to them and allow them to provide us with feedback. After all, students have more at stake in this process than any of us. Their future depends on it.
Trust your students.