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Dare to Trust

In the last several years of my teaching career, I have made a conscious decision to trust my students. As a part of my opening day speech, I tell my students that even though they have done nothing yet to earn my trust, I choose to trust them. I tell them that I am on their side and that I will believe what they say to me.

If a student tells me his computer crashed just when he was about to send me his essay (the 21st century version of "the dog ate my homework"), I believe him.

If a student says she is not ready for her quiz because she was at the hospital all night with her sick grandmother, I believe her.

Or at least I act like I believe her, and frankly, most of the time I do.

And if I find out one of my students has lied to me, I don't feel stupid. As one of my teacher mentors, Jeff Wilhelm, would say, "it's not my bad." It's not my job to suspect every student of lying and cheating. It is my job to teach, and I know that to teach well, I need to build a rapport with my students. I don't want them to fear me. I want to be a safe place for them to land. Too many times I found out months into the school year that a student was homeless, or that her dad was dying of cancer, or that he'd been struggling with clinical depression. And even though those cases are the exception rather than the rule, I choose to treat every student like the exception.

I have to admit, every time I give my speech about trusting them, about being willing to extend deadlines for those who dialogue with me, a little voice in my head says: "They are so going to take advantage of you. Why would anyone turn in anything on time, if you are willing to accept their lies as truth?" But you know what? I get just as many papers on time as I did when I had a much stricter policy.

The bottom line is this. I would much rather believe liars all day long than suspect the innocent. I would much rather be gullible than cynical. I dare to trust.


Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thank, Mac. That means a lot coming from the best teacher (and singer) I know.

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  2. I would say, as a former student, that by choosing to be a "schmuck" rather than a "jerk" you are gaining a lot of respect from your students. Because you're willing to be so open and kind, your students will rarely take advantage of you. No one cares about the approval from a jerk they dislike, but from what I've found from my experience in your class and from my peers is that no one wants to let down a teacher they genuinely love and respect. You're not being a "schmuck" -- you're being kind, you're being honest, and your students respect you for it. They won't let you down.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Laura dear. It means a lot to hear this from you, because you more than earned my respect in every way imaginable.

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  3. Wow Laurie that is inspirational. You are an amazing person. I, too, would rather believe positively in people. I think that if I anticipate dishonesty or deceit I am just setting a person up to fail. If I am wrong, I am still right.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I don't always get it right, but it's definitely a philosophy I try to live out ever day.

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  4. Beautifully written! All the more reason I would LOVE to have my two kids in you class someday. (Not to mention, they'd love it too!)

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  5. And that, my dear, is why you are such an honorable teacher and loved by your students. You ARE someone to look up to! (And, yes, I did get an entire set of essays graded before I read your post). :)

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