Why Trust is Critical

I have long believed that one of the absolute first tasks I have when working with a new student is to earn that student's trust. I have to show each student that I am worthy of their trust, that the program that I am using to teach them will be effective, and that the room in which we work is a safe place. They must feel safe physically and emotionally. It takes a lot of trust in someone to be willing to make a mistake in front of them. And, as I explain to my students, their mistakes are what allow me to see where we need to focus our attention.

So, while all of this made perfect sense to me, there was one aspect of trust of which I was unaware and makes that relationship even more critical. When input enters our brain, the first area through which it passes is the area in which the brain determines whether that input is dangerous. If it's perceived as dangerous, it is immediately passed along to the "fight or flight" area; the brain can't send it anywhere else until it determines whether it is truly a danger.

Given that information, I now realize that if my student, for any reason, feels that what I might be telling them or asking them to do presents any danger to them, that information will not make it into the deeper processing areas of the brain. This perceived danger can be something as simple as a fear of failing. What this means for teachers is that, if a student doesn't trust us to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment at all times, our best efforts at teaching can be thwarted.

Establishing trust is a critical component of any relationship with our students.