Children Depend on Us, So Be Dependable

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire

Far too many times, an adult promises a child a reward for good behavior. This in itself is a problem, which will be discussed in the next chapter, but even more problematic is when the adult breaks his or her promise.

I know a well-respected teacher who once told her class, on the first day of school, that at the end of the year she would take them on a very exciting trip. Practically every day, students who were not behaving properly were threatened with the punishment of not going on the special trip. Many students even did extra work to make sure they would be included. During the last week of school, the teacher announced to the children that she was moving away and would not be able to take them after all. I wish she had stuck around long enough to hear the bitter comments of her students. This betrayal not only ruined anything good she had done with the kids that year, but soured many of them on school and adults in general. I can't blame them. A broken trust has to be avoided at all costs.

Parents and teachers have to come through. If I tell the kids we are beginning a special art project on Friday, I have to deliver, even if it means running out to a twenty-four-hour Home Depot at 4:00 a.m. to get extra wood and brushes. Being constantly dependable is the best way to build up trust. We do not need to lecture the children about how we came through on a promise; let them figure out that they can trust us. It's a cliché, but our actions truly do speak louder than our words.

A nice bonus here is that, if trust has been established, the kids are far more understanding on the rare occasion when a promised activity needs to be postponed.

Read more of Rafe's advice!
Fire in the Classroom
Gimme Some Truth
Replace Fear with Trust
Discipline Must Be Logical
You Are a Role Model
More Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire Resources

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire by Rafe Esquith. Copyright © Rafe Esquith, 2007.

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