To trust children’s behavior is to trust that they want to be independent.
It’s in the little things. Students who understand the expectations for assignments can move forward independently. Once they trust that there are no mine fields waiting to trip them up, they follow directions more consistently and eventually gain their independence
Telling them exactly what is happening in a situation, gives the students the opportunity to prove that they will do what is right. There were times when I literally had no choice.
VIGNETTE On the way to an assembly, one child needed immediate help. Telling the class that they were on their own and that they knew where to go and knew what to do, I stepped back to help the child. The rest of the class proceeded down the hall into the assembly with me at the back trusting they would enter the room and find their seats without me. They did. (Fourth graders.)
VIGNETTE This happened to a sixth grade teacher with a self-contained classroom. His wife was expecting any moment. His class knew that he would rush out when the call came, and a sub would come. On his way to work, his wife called. He headed to the hospital. Returning to the classroom the next day, he noticed that all the papers were corrected, the room was neat, and the students happy. He asked who the substitute was. “No one,” they answered. “You forgot to call for one. When we realized what happened, we decided to go through the day as though someone was here. We knew what to do. No one ever noticed.” Amazing? Well-informed students who felt trusted led to correct independent behavior.
VIGNETTE Just before recess, a student with a bad wound revealed to a friend that it was worse. (It had happened at home, and he had shown me earlier. His long sleeves covered it.) (Sixth grader.) The friend immediately told me. Checking it out, I knew he needed medical help. Telling the class that the student was now my priority and that they knew the rules and what to do, they were sent out the classroom door to walk around the building to the playground for recess. Making a fast trip to the office, his parents were called, and the student went straight to the hospital. At the end of recess, back came the class – proud and happy they did something on their own. They had proved they were trustworthy and independent. I was most grateful and told them so many times.
There will be times when the students need to be trusted. Give them that trust often and praise their follow through. It may be as simple as everyone remembering to bring their homework. or walk down the hall properly or…. (I just recalled this. My first grade students loved to have an adult compliment them on their good behavior in the hallway. When they returned to the room, as they stepped through the door, they would choose an M&M out of the box we kept them in. Two compliments meant two M&Ms.)