Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Update on Trust in the Classroom

There is a wonderful piece on teaching in Sunday's New York Times. While the piece is on second career teachers in K-12 schools, the last commentator, Kenneth J. Bernstein, makes some fabulous observations on building trust in the classroom.  His opinion rings true for everyone in every classroom; trust is essential to good teaching and learning.  We, as professors of law, frequently forget that the content instruction only works for students when they feel safe to stretch their thinking.

"That’s the hard part, thinking more about the students than about the content. It is probably the biggest challenge for many career switchers. One doesn’t have to be their buddy, but one has to build relationships of trust. Through that trust students become willing to try when they are struggling, or to go further even when at first it seems easy.

The most important thing I do, and the hardest, is getting to know the students, and building on those relationships. The pedagogical process of matching one’s instruction to the students is easy.

Building that relationship of trust is vital. If you can’t do it then why should your students learn what you want to teach them? And if you can, become a teacher."


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