Communicating trust while correcting students is a beautiful thing

Picture yourself as a first grader–smart, curious, and full of excitement about learning.

You are just forming your perception of who you are as a student.

You need a reminder about expectations. 

Your teacher says to you, “Ms. Smith needs you to quiet down and get to work.”

You feel guilty, knowing you should not have been talking. You crouch into yourself a bit, worried that your teacher will think of you as a bad kid now. She doesn’t even think you know her name!

Now, picture another scenario. 
Same characters–you as your amazing first grade self, needing a reminder about expectations.

Your teacher says to you, “Is that a ‘smart spot’ for you?”

You know what a ‘smart spot’ is because your teacher taught you what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. 

Your teacher trusts that you know what a ‘smart spot’ is, and gives you freedom to choose a spot in the room to work. She believes in you–believes you are an amazing first grader who is smart, curious, and full of excitement for learning. 

I love watching first grade teacher Lauren Huisingh do her thing, this week I was able to see the power of the shared vocabulary she has with her students. One of their secret phrases is ‘smart spot’. Not only do they know what it looks like, sounds like and feels like, they also learn the amazing things they can create when they chose the perfect smart spot for themselves. Now, three months into the school year, they all know exactly what it means. 

In talking with Lauren about why she manages the classroom this way, she shared that she feels a great responsibility as a first grade teacher because she knows that first graders begin to develop a sense of who they are as students in this all important year. She develops this “secret language” in the form of shared vocabulary to communicate and uphold expectations in a way that embraces who these little people are. The trust in the environment is palpable.

During that same visit, Lauren asked a student if she needed a clipboard. However, that question was not about the clipboard. She asked the question because the student was not working. In that simple question, Lauren reinforced expectations and demonstrated to the student that she was there to help if she needed it. She could have said, “Let’s get to work,” to the student, but implied is an accusation that the student doesn’t know she should be working. How we correct students can can damage relationships and contribute to students thinking of themselves negatively.

There is such a better way to communicate and uphold high expectations, and Lauren has nailed it. She actually contributes to relationships while she “corrects” students, she explicitly teaches the expectations, and she communicates trust all the while. It is a beautiful thing.

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