Trust is a critical part of creating a safe classroom community and a large portion of that trust is built on the sense that the teacher is dependable and reliable. You want your students to be dependable as well: people who others can count on for their truthfulness and integrity. Teaching behaviors like this is not easy. Dependable people follow through – they do what they say they will, even though it might involve inconvenience or sacrifice. Some ideas for building these skills:
- Model. Do what you say you will do. Really. Students are always watching, and they learn by example.
- Expect your students to keep their word. Follow through without judgment or blame. “You said you would bring the book back today and it isn’t here. What is your plan? How can you solve this problem?
- Follow through over and over again when students don’t keep agreements. This takes lots of practice (and patience).
- Avoid saying “I promise.” Stuff happens and broken promises erode trust and the sense that you are reliable.
- Talk about expected and unexpected behaviors. Would it be expected behavior if you came to school in your bathing suit? No. Is there a “rule” against it? No. But we have all sorts of unwritten codes that we follow. They change depending on our context. This is a great opportunity to help students understand why some behaviors surprise them, make judgments about another person or invite them to flip their lid.
- Class meetings provide an opportunity create solutions for a problem and then to implement the plan. Check back regularly to make sure students are trying out what they agreed to do and to notice whether the solution is working.