With it kids flourish. Without it kids flounder.
“Trust is the hidden variable that makes everything else work,” says Lonnie Moore author of the High-Trust Classroom. Lonnie paints the picture that trust is the glue of all positive human relations. This ‘trust glue’ keeps humans bonded – without trust as the bonding agent relationships weaken and fall apart.
“Relationship is the platform on which all social and emotional skills are built,” our Education Manager Deb says in her training. Without trust there is no relationship to speak of. Students need to get the sense that this teacher genuinely cares about their academic and emotional growth.
“When kids believe their teachers truly care about them as individuals, they will cooperate in class and work so much more diligently to be the best students they know how to be.”
CONSIDER THIS EDUCATIONAL FORMULA
In his book on trust in the business world, Stephen R. Covey introduces the formula:
In a High Trust Culture: the Speed of Business goes up and the Costs of Business go down.
In a Low Trust Culture: the Speed of Business goes down and the Costs of Business go up.
He goes on to say, “Impact of trust always plays on two key outcomes – speed and cost – and how low or high trust either extracts a tax or produces a dividend on every activity and dimension within a relationship, team or organisation.”
One of the key examples is a low-trust business merger where both businesses try to get the best deal and have to hire (very) expensive lawyers to write detailed and complex agreements to protect their own interests. Covey compares this to Warren Buffet who, on a handshake and no lawyers present, agreed to a merger worth hundreds of millions – no months of negotiation and minimal legal fees.
In the educational world, instead of speed and cost, we could use ideas such as engagement, attendance, openness, speed of learning, passion for learning. Let’s keep it basic, but play with the ideas as you see fit.
For the classroom we could translate this to:
In a High Trust Culture: the Speed of Learning goes up and Disruptive Behaviours go down.
In a Low Trust Culture: the Speed of Learning goes down and Disruptive Behaviours go up.
When you look at trust carefully you will find that in any low trust environment, people become suspicious of each other – they question intents and motivations, guarded or sarcastic communication becomes the norm, shutting down and building walls become common place and disengagement drives up frustration on both sides.
THE RELATIONSHIP BANK ACCOUNT
A Helpful Mental Model
The Relationship Bank Account model is simple to understand and useful to apply. The ‘currency’ of any relationship is Trust. When an action that builds trust between people occurs a ‘deposit’ is made in their personal Relationship Bank Account. A withdrawal is made when an interaction occurs that reduces trust. Even seeing a teacher treat someone else with disrespect may cause a withdrawal in a student’s Relationship Bank Account. As long as regular deposits are being made it isn’t too harmful to have occasional withdrawals. But, it we don’t make deposits or make rather large withdrawals, this is when relationships get into trouble.
For instance, if I tell my kids I’m taking them out for gelati but later change my mind – this is a clearly a withdrawal. If I promise them week after week and every time I change my mind, they will stop believing my promises. Big problem. With a bank account in negative whatever I say, do, suggest will be met with, at best, suspicion. Is this a situation likely to lead to effective learning? This is called paying a Low-trust Tax.
“A relationship without trust is like having a phone with no service. And what do you do with a phone with no service?
You play games”
With regular deposits such as keeping my word, listening carefully, really getting to know my students, my bank balance steadily grows. Even with an occasional withdrawal the students will still believe that I care for them and have their best interests at heart. Great opportunity. Is this a situation more likely to lead to effective learning? This is called receiving a High-trust Dividend.
“Perhaps a more important question than ‘who do you trust?’ is the far more personal question of ‘who trusts you?’”
TRUST BUILDING PRINCIPLES AND IDEAS
Try to make five deposits for every withdrawal. This is a psychological balance point. Go under this ratio and the bank account is heading quickly down. Connect before you Correct.
Make commitments you will definitely keep. Communicate that this is what you hope will occur however other factors can intervene. This keeps expectations and emotions more balanced.
Assign students special duties and trust them to do it. Make sure they have the basic skills to be competent in the given duties.
Deliberately take the time to get to know your students. Build it in to your weekly and daily schedule.
Keep Getting Better
Keep learning how to be a better educator. Students will sense this and even see you get better as the year, or years, go on. And they will respect you for it.
Talk about what trust is. How we can both trust others and be trustworthy. Tell them how they can earn your trust and ask them how you can earn theirs.
Find better ways to help kids make better choices and become more responsible. In many kids, punishment activates oppositional attitudes and habits.
Show kids respect in the form of meaningful, challenging and rewarding learning activities that are truly worthy of their time and best efforts.
Remember, ‘You can listen someone into existence.’
Don’t Take It Personally
Don’t personalise the words and behaviours of your students. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Look deeply, past the behaviour, and see what it is about for them.
Fair means all students get the same rules, and exceptions to those rules. Unfair teachers will have serious trust issues.
Laugh at your mistakes. Don’t defend them. Apologise when you get it wrong. Trust isn’t built from always being right.
So take the time to reflect on the trust level you have with the kids you work with. Get curious about where you are paying Low-Trust Taxes and look for opportunities to build trust and eventually you will be reaping High-Trust Dividends.
Tip: Integrate Mindfulness – Choose one trust building idea for a week and bring it to mind every time your mindfulness bell brings you back to the present moment.
“You may not be able to control everything, but you can influence certain things. Trust starts with you.”
The High Trust Classroom: Lonnie Moore
The Speed of Trust: Stephen Covey
Discipline with Dignity: Curwin and Mendler
Article by James Ryan – Training Manager