The State of Trust

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
~Stephen Covey

I recently heard a statistic that made me cringe.  The reporter stated that only one-third of Americans today trusted their fellow citizen.  This number is down from 50% from when the study was initiated in 1972.  The report cited several possible reasons for this dramatic drop in human faith, including gridlock in government and a reliance on digital communication (email).  My experience has been that the vast majority of people are fully trustworthy and have the best interest of their fellow man/woman at heart.  I also believe that it is better to start from a position of trust and let people’s actions determine your level of trust in them.

As I pondered on this disturbing statistic, I wondered how we could reverse this trajectory.  As I started to think about the way we approach teaching and learning in Wilmette and the experiences our kids get, my spirits were buoyed.  Trust is built through common experiences and struggles and through working with others different than yourself.  We provide our students with multiple opportunities to work with a wide variety of learners in class.  Outside of the classroom, we offer programs such as peer mentoring, High-5 Choir, and social service opportunities.  Our kids frequently work with peers to figure out tough problems. These (and many other experiences) allow us to help our students build trusting relationships.

In implementing our 1:1 iPad initiative, we put a lot of thought into how to keep the human connection intact, so that we can continue helping students develop trust with their peers and with the adults in the building. We know that iPads aren’t a substitute for a high-quality teacher.  We also know that we don’t want kids staring at screens all day. Our aim is to provide ample opportunities for face-to-face interactions with peers and adults.  This is evident by our iPad free zones, which include our cafeteria and other locations where we want kids interacting or socializing with each other.  This approach allows us to provide kids with a rich technology experience while allowing them to develop trust in one another and in us while building human connections.

Schools can’t do it alone, though.  We need families to help build the social and trusting capacity of their children.  There are simple steps every family can take to this end, like making dinner time sacred and not allowing devices at the dinner table.  Another idea it to make service a priority and seek out ways to help the less fortunate.  Holding kids accountable when they are disrespectful or hurtful and having them make amends are also critical.  Finally, living the example of tolerance and understanding in our own lives will have the greatest impact on how our children view the world.

When home and schools partner to support trust-building, powerful change is possible.

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