As a reading teacher, the first lesson at the beginning of every school year revolves around getting to know my students and giving them an opportunity to get to know each other as well. An essential part of teaching is developing a strong rapport with students and creating an environment where students trust the teacher and each other. One way I do this is by showing them photos of my family and pets and telling them a little bit about myself. I then give them the opportunity to share with each other something they would like us to know, and I prompt those students who are a little bit reticent by asking questions about something I think they are interested in. For example, “What is your favorite food?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” These early conversations during the beginning of the school year help to create a cohesive classroom, and that in turn helps students learn to a much greater degree. The most important question I ask is, “Is it o.k. to make mistakes when answering questions in class?” Invariably almost all students say no! Even at this young age many students already have the mistaken belief that they have to be “right.” I’m not sure where this stems from, but I also started school with this assumption. If I wasn’t 100% sure what the correct answer was I did not raise my hand. I always tell my students, “It IS o.k to make mistakes because that is how we learn.” Not only is it o.k. it’s an essential part of growing because when we make mistakes we are learning even more. I also explain that everyone, no matter how old they are makes mistakes because we are always learning new things too. This often creates quite an impression. When I’m teaching I will sometimes give the “wrong” answer and ask for a shy student to help me out. This role reversal, reinforces what I’m trying to teach and also builds confidence. Students are more likely to take risks when they see that even teachers make mistakes. School can be intimidating with so much emphasis on grades and assessments. Keep in mind that when students make “mistakes” they are putting themselves out there. In many ways it’s not unlike public speaking and think about how many people have difficulty, even as adults speaking in front of a group. Yet, that’s what students are asked to do on a regular basis. The bottom line is that students will take risks and succeed to an even greater degree academically when they are not judged. Teachers and parents set the standard for children to do their best, by creating an environment based on trust, compassion and perseverance.