18 September, 2013

How to Trust Your Students

By Todd Finley, Interim Editorial Assistant, Schools that Work Reporter.

Education is catastrophically deficient in trust. Pro-accountability education reformers presume that, absent carrots and sticks, classrooms would be overrun with lazy and incapable teachers. Traditional instructors presume that, absent carrots and sticks, classrooms would be overrun with lazy and incapable students. Both viewpoints emerge from a noble desire to make classrooms high-performance spaces, but in actuality they suppress excellence.

Exemplifying an exasperating phenomenon that would make Karl Marx tsk, teacher mistrust metastasizes, particularly in the most underserved classrooms. Poor students and minorities, prejudged with the most ungenerous stereotypes, are consigned to the least constructivist and democratic classrooms (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2000; Solomon et al., 1996). Already placed with remedial-oriented drill and skill teachers, students witness their peers ramp up their antisocial behaviors in response to authoritarian punishments (Cothran and Ennis, 1997).

Teachers can break this cycle with trust, even if it means risking that students will betray your faith in them. You have to make yourself vulnerable; otherwise, you aren't doing it right. Trust is an action word.

Benefits of Teachers Trusting Students

When teachers trust their students, the results are astonishing.
  • Academics: Academic performance improves (Goddard, Tschannen-Moran, & Hoy, 2001), and so do test scores (Ennis & McCauley, 2002).
  • Positive Behaviors: Students are more willing to follow classroom norms and work cooperatively with peers.
  • Engagement & Risk: Learners are more likely to engage with the curriculum and ask questions.
When teachers trust their students, their pedagogy changes.
  • Progressive Instruction: Teachers are more willing to engage in constructivist practices, according to the dissertation research of Virginia Louise Durnford, because progressive practices require instructors to trust that "children are capable of creating their own knowledge" (Rainer, Guyton, & Bowen, 2000, p.10).
  • Increased Differentiation: Classroom professionals are more likely to reshape old methods of instruction and try alternative strategies. They empower students who want to follow individual paths to content mastery.
  • Democratization: They share more control of the class with students (Goddard, Tschannen-Moran, & Hoy, 2001).
  • Improved Practice: Teachers seek out professional development (Tschannen-Moran, 2004) and grow their abilities. 
In the following sections, I'll define trust and then offer research-supported ways of manifesting Vitamin-T. 

What is Trust? 

While love exercises the heart, trust exercises the soul. 

Durnford writes that "definitions of trust include one or more of the following attributes: vulnerability, benevolence in motivation, reliability, competence, honesty and openness (Tschannen-Moran and Hoy, 2000)." The truster has to believe that both parties share mutual goals and that the trustee has the capacity to meet expectations. 

 Trust Factoids

  • Students' reputations affect trust.
  • Some people have more propensity to trust than others.
  • Poverty and diversity negatively affect trust.
  • High levels of trust -- the realm of faith and hope -- are hard to shake, even in the face of betrayal.
  • Trust is gradually developed in stages. Don't believe in trust at first sight.
How to Trust Students (and Show It)
  • Give it away: Trust must be given in order for trust to develop. "You know that old stuff we learned about assigning students special duties and responsibilities? It works -- especially with tough-to-teach students," says high school teacher, Sara Davenport (Ennis & McCaulay, 2002). Also, give students second chances.
  • Slowly and deliberately get to know your students: In Catherine Ennis and Terri McCaulay's study of urban high schools, teacher Michelle Connors describes her beliefs about students' potential:
My students are like oysters. Life has not been good to them. Most of them have failed [. . .] To protect themselves, they build this shell around them. And as a teacher, what I have to do is wear away, literally by perseverance, wear away that shell to the point where I can get inside, or I have to make them open up . . . because once you show a student that they can succeed, you've found that pearl that is hidden deep inside.

For that process to work, Connors must consciously trust that each student has a pearl.

  • Share power: Seek student input about what is to be learned and how.
  • Explain to students how they can earn your trust: Explicitly tell learners how they can impress you with honesty, academic effort, politeness and consistency. Radiate supernova optimism that students will exhibit trustworthiness.
  • Avoid protective hesitancy: Engage students who don't look, sound and act like you.
  • Try not to punish: Teachers with fixed views about their authoritative role in the classroom activate oppositional youth (Herman & Marlow, 2005).
  • Adjust the learning environment: Desks arranged into clusters demonstrate trust. Rows do not.
 Showing students your belief in them is easier when they trust you. It will help if you are honest and open. "I might only understand 80% of what you've just said," I tell students. "If you think I'm not hearing you, give me another chance. Let me know." It's not just a job to you, right? Give students extra cognitive and emotional reasons to trust you by surpassing expectations. Tyler Hester bought his ninth grade English students books with his own money. Watch how the gesture touched them.

Remember that students who do not experience trust from their teachers are less likely to learn (Ennis and McCauley 2002; Tschannen-Moran 2004). Fortunately, you can dial up your trust. Have a little faith.

Read, Lean and Flourish!

Grow, Glow and be Great!

11 September, 2013

An excerpt from Smile for No Good Reason

by Dr. Lee Jampolsky

Have you ever noticed that two people can confront the same circumstances with very different reactions? This is a matter of attitude and nothing else. Freedom is being able to say, "Rich or poor, alone or with a mate, physically healthy or not, employed or laid off, I believe that peace of mind is possible."

We have all experienced what it is like to be having a perfectly fine day and have a situation or crisis arise that sends us into a tailspin. It may be something small like a traffic jam making us late, or something more severe like the loss of a job. Our response can seem automatic.

Though at first it may be difficult to accept, freedom depends on recognizing that you're not upset because of what occurred, you are upset because of how you perceive the situation. Key to Attitudinal Healing is recognizing that you are not a victim of the world.

Another way of saying this is: There is absolutely nothing in the world that has the power to ruin your day. If you are upset, it is because you have directed your mind to be so. Initially these truths can be hard to accept because you have become so accustomed to giving your power away. Every time you blame another person for your unhappiness you are giving your power away. Stop blaming and start healing.

How you perceive a situation will determine your experience and your reaction. Let's imagine that you have a favorite coffeehouse that you frequent. The staff knows your name and always has a warm and friendly greeting as you walk through the door. An extremely grumpy woman whom you have never seen before serves you this particular morning. She appears preoccupied rather than caring about you or what she is doing. As she pours your hot coffee a good portion spills in your lap. Despite your jumping in shock, no apology follows. Your experience is anger: both toward the waitress and the owner, Joe, for hiring such an incompetent person. Then, a friend of yours at the next booth says, "Isn't it great that Joe hired her!"

"Great! Are you out of your mind? She just spilled hot coffee in my lap and walked away," you reply with your best indignant voice.

"Oh, you didn't hear the story?" your friend whispers.

"What story?" you angrily reply, still drying off your new slacks, wondering how you will go through the day looking as though you wet your pants.

"Yeah, Joe didn't know her from Adam. He read in the paper that her husband had died last month in a car accident. Apparently her husband's health insurance stopped, and she was looking for another job in order to pay for her sixteen-year-old son's chemotherapy for leukemia," your friend responds.

Now, you still have hot coffee in your crotch, but are you still angry? Unlikely. The only thing that shifted was your perception and attitude. Through discovering a reason to be compassionate, your entire experience changed—and there are always reasons to be compassionate.

An important part of healing (i.e., letting go of fear) is developing compassion. Instead of going out in the world and finding plenty of reasons to be upset, go out and discover reasons to extend love. There are thousands of reasons waiting for you right now. A helpful thought to remember is that a miracle is nothing more than allowing an old grievance to become a current compassion.

If you ever run short on reasons to be compassionate, remember there is always one good reason: It makes you feel better than anything else you could do.

When you are upset remind yourself
the cause of your discomfort is your own attitude.
This is freedom.

Read, Learn and Flourish!
Grow, Glow and be Great!