How to Gain Student Trust and Respect

Why are students so quiet on the first days of school?  Could it be that they are asking themselves, “Can I trust this teacher? And can I respect this teacher?”

According to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School Professor, gaining trust and respect is attainable and essential to do right away.

She states that gaining a person’s trust is critical to gaining their respect.  Here are some tips for gaining student trust and respect the first day of school.

  1. Honor the Students’ Time, Talents, Interests
  2. Engage the Students on Their Level
  3. Accept Student Differences
  4. Radiate Eagerness to Teach the Students
  5. Telegraph How Much Fun You Are Going to Have Together

Honor the Students’ Time, Talents, Interests

Some of our students make tremendous efforts just to get to school each day.  I had a student that had to ride three busses to get to school.  Another had to get her three siblings dressed, fed and off to school before she could get herself to school.  For most students, being in your class (or at school) is only one of the things they could be doing, so acknowledge that and thank them for being there.  Also honor their time be being prepared with a real lesson the first day and every day.  Get down to learning right away… that is why they came, so give them their money’s worth.

Engage the Students on Their Level

Get to know their names by thoughtfully placing them in a seating chart. As you prepare the learning activities try to remember what it was like to be their age and anticipate their responses.  Incorporate that into the design of your learning activities.  Let them know who you are, not what you have done: “I love to read, eat pizza, and watch old Japanese kung fu movies.” Have the students choose the super hero they identify with the most, their favorite cereal, flavor of ice cream, sports team, or musician and as you ask them about it, jot it down on the seating chart next to their name.   Throughout the year you can weave this added information into other learning opportunities.

Accept Student Differences

Just like you identify the types of students, the students will be watching you to see what kind of teacher you are and how you treat each type of student.  Warmly greet every student at the door with the same handshake and a smile.  During the lessons, carry the seating chart with you and call the students by name so you can learn them (refrain from whole class questions).  Establish early on that you will randomly ask students questions by using the seating chart and calling on a variety of students, not just the ones that raise their hands.  Students learn quickly that they need to be listening and prepared.  When they respond to a question, find something positive to say and use their names; “That was insightful, Alfred!” or “Great thinking, Margie!”

Radiate Eagerness to Teach the Students

Students pick up on the non-verbal cues and without even thinking about it, they respond in like manner.  Body language is powerful.  Show your excitement and enthusiasm by never sitting down, by leaning forward, by standing straight, by being expressive with your hands and face, and by walking energetically around the classroom.  Dress professionally, like you mean business. A huge smile will let the students know, without you having to say anything, that you like them, you like being there, and, you like what you do.  Finally, your voice carries a powerful message.  Imagine that you are talking about a wonderful experience to a friend…how would your voice sound?  That is what you want heard in the classroom the first day and every day. Practice in a mirror or video yourself talking to make sure that you radiate enthusiasm every day.

Telegraph How Much Fun You Are Going to Have Together

Students need to feel that they are making progress, doing important learning, and have fun… they need powerful reasons to learn in your class.  Constantly provide them with something they can take home and say, “I like this class because we learned________!”  For example, in my Spanish classes, instead of talking about the alphabet or learning disjointed words, right away we work on simple phrases that they could take home to show their parents.  “Como estas?” and three simple verbal responses with hand motions. It took just a few minutes to model, choral repeat, and practice, but giving them tangible learning everyday saves time the whole year by expanding learning at home.

If you give your students H.E.A.R.T. at the beginning of school, the rest of your year will be enjoyable and productive for you and your students.  Most importantly, your students will see that you value them enough to not waste their time, to treat them as individuals, to incorporate their uniqueness into your learning activities, to engage with them from your personal love of learning, and to inspire them to want to learn and they will give you’re their hearts right back.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ben Johnson, Ed.D.

Orem, Utah