Trust is the secret sauce of the classroom.
Trust is the foundation of meaningful relationships, and teachers who prioritise building trust with their students will create a classroom culture that fosters positive connections and deep learning. When students feel safe and supported in the classroom, they are more likely to take risks, ask questions, and share ideas without fear of judgement or ridicule. The absence of trust can have a detrimental effect on students, hindering their ability to learn and grow.
Trust is not something that can be demanded, it must be earned; and the process of earning trust takes time and effort. To cultivate trust in the classroom teachers need to consider the following; care, communication, clarity, character, consistency, and competence.
There’s a saying, kids don’t care what you know until they know you care. As teachers, we must create a culture of caring in our classrooms, showing an interest in students’ lives, opinions, and needs. We must get to know them so we can connect and care for them. It is also vital to model kindness and encourage students to demonstrate it towards one another.
How do you show you care?
Communication is also crucial to creating trust in the classroom. Teachers need to listen actively and effectively communicate their expectations, vision and belief in their students. Just as students need to trust their teacher, teachers must also trust their students to take ownership of their learning. When teachers communicate their expectations and belief in their students, they are laying the foundation for mutual trust.
How might you improve your communication skills?
Trust and truth come from the same linguistic root, the proto-indo-European word ‘deru’ which means something firm, solid and steadfast, like wood. Honesty is important and clarity is kind. Teachers must be willing to speak honestly and clearly, even when the truth is hard to hear.
When was the last time you needed to speak honestly?
Be who you are. Students can’t trust people who are pretending to be someone else. This means that our behaviours, the ways we speak, think and act, are aligned with our values. We do what we say we will do. Authenticity means that we are real, human, vulnerable. We show our character when we take responsibility for our mistakes.
What are your values and how do you communicate these throughout your day?
Consistency is key. Students need to know that teachers mean what they say, and their expectations are fair. Teachers need to be reliable and predictable in their behaviour and expectations. Flickering moods and shifting boundaries create distrust and unsettle students. Teachers must demonstrate resilience and manage themselves to respond intelligently rather than react emotionally. Our own resilience builds consistency, which in turn builds trust.
What can you do to build your resilience so you are seen as consistent?
Lastly, competence is essential to building trust in the classroom. Teachers need to be well-prepared and knowledgeable, delivering their lessons confidently and competently. While teachers cannot be expected to know everything, they should be confident in what they do know and be willing to continue learning. By continually learning, teachers build competence and, in turn, build trust.
How can you build your competence?
Trust is the secret sauce and you get to write your own recipe. Ultimately, a trusting environment benefits both students and teachers alike, providing a foundation for growth and success. By prioritising care, communication, clarity, character, consistency, and competence, teachers can establish a culture of trust that fosters deep learning and positive connections.
(Photo 1 by Peter Newton and Photo 2 by Kerry Hodge Photography)