Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Maybe Trust Makes the Difference Between Engagement and Compliance
1556
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-1556,single-format-standard,ajax_updown,page_not_loaded,,vertical_menu_enabled,qode-title-hidden,side_area_uncovered_from_content,qode-theme-ver-13.1.2,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.4.5,vc_responsive

Slice of Life: Maybe Trust Makes the Difference Between Engagement and Compliance

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hShe tries to stand her book bag upright, but it falls.  She turns to look at her friend’s bag standing tall and stable.  She adjusts the contents of her bag and tries again.  It falls again.  She walks over to closely examine the standing bag careful not to disturb it.  She then returns to her bag adjusts it again and tries to stand it up on the table.  Once again, it falls.  Determinedly she continues several times until finally her bag stands.  She waits a moment to assure her victory and then heads off to the lesson she is missing.

 Some may read this snippet and think the student is off-task or the teacher should have demanded her presence before the lesson began.  I may have been one of those people if I did not observe it in person.  On this day, however, when I observed this moment only one word came to mind: trust.

Trust is defined as reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence or a confident expectation of something; hope.  Trust is a critical component of a classroom culture.  I have been thinking quite a bit about the difference between engagement and compliance lately and I wonder if the difference is trust.  When I think about all the things I observed in this classroom it is clear these students are independent, engaged and problem solvers.  These first graders read and wrote for extended periods of time while the teacher worked with small groups.  These students transitioned quickly and easily between lessons and knew where to find the materials they needed.  These students self selected texts and met with partners to work collaboratively.  How do you get six year olds to be independent, productive learners?

Upon reflection I think it was the trust this teacher established in her classroom.  She trusted the students would solve problems, make good choices and work productively.  She did not interrupt her groups to comment or redirect behaviors that were happening.  She trusted the students would redirect themselves or each other and they did.  Were there problems? Yes.  Did students get off task at moments? Yes.  Did students make mistakes?  Yes.  The important thing is that students found a way to fix these problems.  They were in charge of their learning and they knew the adult in the room trusted them to make appropriate learning choices.  They were engaged not compliant.

I worry that we may too focused on compliance in classrooms and we are losing engagement as a result.  Young learners do not do things perfectly.  They become distracted and move at their own pace.  While we certainly do need systems and structures in place to provide consistency and predictability we also need to give our students the space to learn how to do things for themselves.  We cannot wish them to be independent.  We need to let them learn how to be independent and to fail many times in the process of learning.

When I think about this snippet, I realize this student demonstrated a growth mindset.  She did not give up and had the grit to solve her problems despite failures.  She also demonstrated problem solving skills and strategic thinking.  These are the dispositions we are trying to instill in our students.  When this teacher set her agenda aside to allow this student to engage in her own learning she modeled the importance of a growth mindset in her classroom culture.  She knew this student’s agenda in that moment was more important than hers.

Daniel Pink’s research shows that “the secret to high performance and satisfaction – at work, at school and at home – is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”   When we know our students and understand our pedagogy we can trust the learning process and our students.  When this happens it creates a learning environment for teachers and students that provides opportunities to listen, reflect and learn.  When this happens, it is truly magical!

Clare

10 Comments
  • Avatar
    bernadette
    Posted at 10:31h, 10 June Reply

    Thank you for a thoughtfully written piece. I especially appreciate your quoting Daniel Pink. I think it is easy to forget when working with children the need to direct their own learning.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 13:11h, 13 June Reply

      The writing is the easy part — creating this culture is the hard work which I had the priviledge to observe. We love Daniel Pink’s work – so important to think about in classrooms.
      Thanks
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 10:39h, 10 June Reply

    This post has inspired me to start a file of special articles to give to new teachers or to teachers who need some inspiration. You have included so much in here–love the concept of growth mindset, but I also love how you wove in the importance of students’ agendas, even when they include getting bags to stand up. Ahhh–compliance vs. engagement…we have such incredibly compliant children in our midst that we don’t think enough about engagement.
    Really, really, great post. Thank you.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 13:19h, 13 June Reply

      What a great idea! Now you have inspired us. We too are very worried about the amount of compliance we see in schools! Thank you for your response.

      Clare

  • Avatar
    Lee Ann Spillane
    Posted at 11:12h, 10 June Reply

    Failure is learning’s first step. Love the idea that we need to trust, even the very young, to make choices and solve problems. It is okay for students to be “off task” as they negotiate and figure out and learn. Sometimes I think we teachers are so sensitive to the off task moments that we may miss seeing or celebrating the engagement. The “grit” concept has been criticized as double-speak for compliance. I don’t think you see it that way though.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 13:29h, 13 June Reply

      I love your quote: “Failure is learning’s first step.” We do not see grit as compliance. It is my OLW this year so I am thinking a lot about grit. This experience has me thinking about grit vs compliance.

      Thanks
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Dana Murphy
    Posted at 13:38h, 10 June Reply

    I love the Slice in the beginning! I can just picture that little girl trying to get her backpack to stand up. I’m so thankful the teacher didn’t “redirect” her (or yell at her!) As a coach, I often try to get teachers to stand back after they’ve taught a procedure lesson and just observe – it can often be hard for them not to step in. Now, I have a better explanation for why this is important – you have to show the kids you trust them to make good choices. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 13:32h, 13 June Reply

      Thank you! I love being in classrooms — I learn every day! I agree we need to think more about observing our students so we can understand our students and think more about next steps.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Tara
    Posted at 14:31h, 10 June Reply

    It takes a lot of hard work and patience and love to create an environment like the one you described. So much depends on our willingness as teachers to want more from our kids than complaince, and to work towards achieving trust. Thank you for another inspiring post.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 13:34h, 13 June Reply

      Thank you Tara — we appreciate your support and response. We need to achieve more than compliance and we worry about the amount of compliance we see in classrooms. We also worry teachers feel the need to comply and we think we need to trust teachers more too.
      Clare

Post A Comment

Verification *