Survivor Algebra How to Build and Keep Your Students' Trust

This may seem like an obvious thing -- wanting your students to trust you... But it mustn't be since I've seen so many cases where that trust has been broken and students have suffered.

Building and maintaining your students' trust is a very important key to having them be able to learn from you.

I'm probably preaching to the choir on this one, since you are here, clearly, striving to be a better teacher.  You obviously care!  You're probably not the one I need to be talking to...  But, humor me and read on anyway.  Perhaps you'll gather a nugget that you can pass on to someone else.

The quickest and easiest way to build trust is to show the kids that you genuinely care about them.  There are very simple things you can do to foster this.  For example, the second week of school, I start class by asking the kids how their first week went in the rest of their classes.  We talk a bit about stress management and I'm sure to ask them if they're already behind with anything...  Some always are and I'm able to give them some pointers on how to get caught up.

This one's harder -- learn all their names!  I'm pretty bad at remembering names, so I have several tricks to help me that the students don't know about!

Always let them know that you care about them and want the best for them.

Building trust happens over time, but breaking trust can happen with one act -- and it's very hard to get back.

Here are some ways I think teachers can violate a student's trust:

1)  Lecturing on material that is too hard... Just to scare the students
 or just being ignorant of the best place to start.

Example:  My niece's recent AP Calculus class...  The first day, the teacher started with an epsilon-delta proof (for a quadratic)...  No introduction.  Not even a mention of what a limit is or what all those symbols are.  What a bad way to start the year.

2)  Putting "trick" questions on tests...  In my opinion, the regular
material is hard enough for most of our students.  Do we really need to mess with their heads when they are already very nervous and about to throw up?

I'll even give my students practice tests.  Here's what my questions look like...  "See?  There's nothing to be that scared about.  You can do it!"

3)  Grading unfairly...  This could fall into the realm of just being too
picky (you didn't put the set brackets around your solutions for x... 5
points off) to just being downright mean.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with being human and giving a bit when you're grading.  The kids are learning!  If they were already pro's at this, they wouldn't be in our classes.

4)  The power trip...  No explanation needed on this one.  We've all seen
it.  But, here's an example that happened to me: Calc 2... My teacher handed out our test and said that we will read through all the questions together before we start...  Question 5 is absurdly difficult and I am immediately crestfallen as
I see my "A" go out the window...  After all is read, he laughs and says, "Ha,
you don't really have to do problem 5.  I just put it on there as a joke."  Almost 20 years later and I still think the guy is a complete jerkface.

5)  The public shaming...  I know hundreds of students who have been
humiliated by having to do a problem on the board in front of the whole class... and not being able to do it.  One student (about 19 years old) told me that he was asked to do a long division problem (3rd grade) on the board that he couldn't do.  The teacher tried to walk him through it and finally said (in front of
the whole class), "How can you be so stupid?"  This kid was scarred for life.  He really thought he was forever stupid in math and everything else.  Btw, I had him for three semesters of Algebra (beg - college) and he got two A's and a B. He was NOT stupid.  In fact, he is a very bright young man.  He just needed repairing.

Always remember that you WILL have an impact on your students' lives...  Make it a positive one!