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Education, Leadership, Teaching

Do You Trust Your Students? Really?


flickr photo by notsogoodphotography

“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.

About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


7 thoughts on “Do You Trust Your Students? Really?

  1. I haven’t seen a lot written on this topic, so I really appreciated the post. Trusting your students is essential to success in the classroom. Good post!

    Posted by Michael G. | December 6, 2010, 3:53 am
  2. Thanks for this post I found from following a tweet link. I am also a mid-school administrator and find myself sometimes imagining the worst. There does need to a balance between high expectations and responsible risk taking, from both teachers and students. I think knowing your students well is the key to how far you can trust them to take responsibility for their own learning. Also, student feedback is a valuable tool to improving my teaching. Each year I ask my students to complete a principles of learning and teaching student perceptions survey, which asks a series of questions including ones about the classroom environment, opportunities to work collaboratively, with the community and using technology.

    Posted by Britt Gow | December 6, 2010, 6:42 am
  3. I think trust is the biggest barrier to developing effective student voice and through that, effective, engaged and independent learners.

    Of course once you’ve taken the leap to trust your students you see the rewards it can bring (for you and them), but that initial leap can seem perilous. One way staff can help others to do it is by being very public with their own experiences. If you’re doing it in your classroom make sure you’re telling your colleagues, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and the benefits you’ve seen.

    Posted by Asher Jacobsberg | December 6, 2010, 11:42 am
  4. Once students know that they are trusted they will respond accordingly. Interesting take!

    Posted by Clay Boggess | December 6, 2010, 2:52 pm


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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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