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The Power of Trust

The bond between a teacher and her students is one that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Teachers take their students, sometimes hundreds of them at a time, under their wing, usually just for a year, and help them to grow both academically and personally. One aspect of this bond is the trust that a student places in their teacher. It can sometimes be hard to earn, but once you’ve got it, you can help lead that student to success like no one else can.

The Pages Program prides itself on placing students in situations where it is okay to feel uncomfortable. A few moments that occurred during Pages experiences this year helped me to realize just how big a role I play in these situations because of the trust my students place in me. This is the story of just one of those little reminders.

Scott Woods, Pages artist-in-residence, was standing at the front of my classroom. His soothing voice instructed students to do this and that to their writing. Choose a prompt. Create a title. Add a sensory detail. 

The students followed Scott’s instructions cautiously at first, the lines of writing slowly appearing on the pages of their journals. One student, in particular, was struggling with her prompt and she shyly waved me over. We chatted quietly and it was clear that she was a little confused about the meaning of her quote. By the end of our conversation, she decided to roll with it anyway. I was pleased as I moved away to see that she was beginning to develop several lines of writing. 

A few minutes later, as Scott gives the next part of the instructions, this same student looks up at him in alarm, hugging her journal into her chest,Т  telling him, “No one is ever going to read this!” And, of course, Scott assured her that this is her personal writing, that no one is required to read it. We’re trusting the process, not evaluating the product.

To my surprise, the next time I walked past her, she says, “Is this enough? Is this good?” holding up her journal to me. I reach for the journal hesitantly, keeping her warning in mind. “Are you saying that you want me to read it?” She raises an eyebrow at me and smiles, as if it’s a silly question, “Yeah.” I read it, of course, and gave her some pointers to help her flush out her ideas. I walked away from her feeling a little stunned. It’s so easy to forget how much trust my students place in me, especially with their personal writing. 

Sometimes it can be hard to realize the impact that I have on my student’s lives, especially in a world where there are so many things like grades, state testing, and other outside factors that make it seem like the student might not be making progress. It is the little moments, like a student asking for feedback on their writing, that remind me that the way that I act and respond, every day and every time, to students is important. I’m thankful to Pages for creating the space for these little moments.

Sarah Patterson, Franklin Heights HS, Pages educator-in-residence

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