Monday's blog looked at the importance of teachers trusting their students to help guide learning. When analyzing the significant interaction between students and teachers, trust demonstrated by the teacher must be reciprocated by the student to create effective learning experiences.
I referenced this study
on Monday's blog where the authors discuss the impact of competitiveness on trusting relationships. They found convincingly that competitiveness within an organization moderates the link between trust and learning.
To argue that competitiveness in education is a bad thing is a potentially dangerous approach. Obviously our students must graduate as compelling applicants to highly competitive higher education institutions, but the way we approach this task is important to consider.
We operate with the understanding that when students are overly competitive with each other, performance becomes the end goal rather than that of lasting learning and skill development. Not having class ranks public until the valedictorian and salutatorian are announced just prior to graduation sends a clear message about what is valued by teachers, helping to reduce competitiveness and encourage learning.
The question often asked is, "How do you minimize competitiveness, while still holding students to a high standard for the work they produce?" This question can quickly explode into a conversation that encompasses a plethora of potential blog topics (which I'm sure we'll get to eventually). Fundamentally, this balance we strive to achieve between holding high expectations for students, while encouraging vulnerability during the learning process, is deeply rooted in the relationships developed between teacher and student.
These relationships are multi-pronged; a student's chemistry teacher is his soccer coach and dorm parent, while another student's history teacher may be her advisor and dorm parent as well. I know that when people ask me about my job at a boarding school, my first response is that, as a teacher, you have the opportunity to truly get to know your students, not just in class, but as whole persons. This relationship built with each student is invaluable to inspiring learning in the classroom.
The depth of these relationships with students is critical to achieving the mutual goal of maximized development for each student during his or her time at Proctor. Without a foundational relationship of trust, what student is going to risk failure and expose vulnerabilities in the classroom? These are the actions that allow for truly meaningful learning experiences to occur, we must foster an environment that encourages them.
How do we communicate trust to our students? Hopefully by leading in the classroom competently, authentically, with integrity, and with a focus on helping each student identify and attain their individual goals.