As an educator, one of the greatest challenges is trying to engage reluctant learners. A child has to trust that he/she is in a safe, loving, and welcoming learning environment. It is my belief that a teacher’s influence on a child’s life is not restricted to the one hundred and eighty days that the child is in our classroom. Our influence can last a lifetime. I believe that it is the responsibility of educators to give their students what they need to become life- long learners. I am certain that in order to become life-long learners, children need to become risk-takers. I feel that this undertaking requires that the children trust that they are safe - both physically and emotionally - to explore, to discover and to make mistakes.
It is crucial that the teacher establish this bond with his/her students while also providing opportunities for the students to create trusting relationships with each other. Cooperative and collaborative learning activities allow students to interact with each other in meaningful and thoughtful ways.
I have learned throughout the course of my career that one of the ways that teachers can build trust and motivate students is to share our passions and stories with our students. I enjoy telling stories of my childhood and my children’s childhoods to my students. I love to share my passion for reading and my struggles in school. When my students hear that their teacher struggled with math and worried about having the wrong answer when she went to work a problem on the board, I think they feel understood. I can see it in their eyes and in the way their little shoulders relax.
It is also important that teachers reach out to the parents of our students in order to build strong and trusting relationships. Many of my parents did not have positive school experiences. Several were in the “special classes”. Many didn’t finish high school. I’ve had a number of parents who could not read or write – in English or their native language. These parental insecurities, fears and resentments are often handed down to the children in the family. I can’t reach the children if I can’t gain the trust of the parents. It is an opportunity to re-educate the family and have an incredible impact in a child’s life. It is a challenge that I welcome.