Learning to Trust describes a constructivist approach to classroom management and discipline that was developed by the Child Development Project, a multiyear research and development project that applied attachment theory, care, and self-determination theories to the elementary school classroom. In this book, Marilyn Watson provides an overview of the research on attachment theory and a detailed description of its implications for teaching and classroom management, while chronicling one teacher, Laura Ecken, and her second-third grade class in a high poverty school across two years as she implements the Child Development Project and manages the class, guided by attachment theory. Watson documents in detail Laura's day by day and week by week efforts to build caring, trusting relationships with and among her students and describes the many steps Laura takes to guide the class into becoming a caring, learning community while also meeting her students' individual needs for autonomy and competence.
Of course, not all goes well in this very real classroom and the ways Laura manages the pressures of competition and students' many misbehaviors, ordinary and serious, are clearly and sometimes humorously described. Such teaching is not easy, and is counter to more controlling management approaches common in many schools. The book concludes with a chapter on how teachers might find support in their current schools for this more collaborative approach to classroom management, as well as a chapter that includes reflections from a number of the students seven years after leaving the class.