Schools are microcosms of our society. They reflect what we are, like it or not. Schools are also places where children and adults have the ability to connect and support each other on their life’s journey. Within these schools, we’ve talked about the importance of building capacity and emphasizing academics as ways to improve the climate of the school and its classrooms. When learning and student success become our priorities in word, budget and action, students and teachers are recognized for their hard work and behave in ways that are reflective of their beliefs. In one study, there was a link with the schools academic focus and student achievement, regardless of SES status (1).
Trust is another element that is critical to enhancing learning. Trust is the affective dimension of academic optimism. Remember that in a school with high academic optimism, there is a concerted belief that “Learning and student success is our priority” (academic press/emphasis), a palpable teacher attitude that “We believe in our students” (trust in students), and the knowledge of teachers that “We can do it!” (collective efficacy). Trust nurtures cooperation, openness, professionalism and builds capacity (2). In schools where teachers trust their students, the impact on student achievement tends to be positive (3).
Here’s where a little research can go a long way. Colleagues found six facets of trust emerged and integrated into one construct. Trust in groups is defined as a “willingness to be be vulnerable to another party based on the confidence that the latter party is benevolent, reliable, competent, honest, and open” (Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2003, pp. 185-186).
Building Trust with Your School Staff
Faculty trust can be built in several informal and formal ways. You can act with benevolence, trusting that stakeholders will act in ways that are appropriate and respectful. If teachers act professionally and fairly and students work hard to achieve, you can assume that parents are willing to collaborate in order to help students meet and exceed their high expectations. You can further build trust by being reliable and competent. This can be demonstrated by beginning and ending meetings at their appointed times, following through on requests or promises, and backing up teachers as the need arises. When there is follow through with the expectations of the class and the school, stakeholders feel more confident that the leadership of the school is adept at their job of leading the school. This in turn may encourage others to believe in their abilities of professional competence. Finally, you can lead your schools with honest and open communication and transparent actions. Be accessible through email and telephone, within boundaries, and hold parent/carer meetings at various times to meet the needs of working parents and carers. School newsletters, memos, and websites can all be used as communication tools in order to strengthen the relationships between home and school, which in turn may inspire parents and members of the community to become more engaged with the school. Regardless of the ways you seek to foster and build trust, it is a necessary component of improving student achievement.
Time for Reflection
As the Instructional Leader of your school, what are some concrete actions in which you are already working to build trust with your colleagues? Which have been most successful and with whom? How do you know?
Reflection in Action: Take Away
As you go through the next couple of weeks, reflect on your trust-building actions and those of your leadership team. Does everyone have a shared understanding of trust and its integral role to school success? If not, begin with these colleagues and build a common understanding.
Your willingness to be vulnerable could go a long way towards your school becoming one built with trust.
COMING UP: In a few weeks, we’ll discuss for teachers, how to build trust with students and parents.
(1) Lee, V. E., & Bryk, A. S. (1989). A multilevel model of the social distribution of high school achievement. Sociology of Education, 62(3), 172-192.
(2) Hoy, W. K., Smith, P. A., & Sweetland, S. R. (2002). Toward an organizational model of achievement in high schools: The significance of collective efficacy. Educational Administration Quarterly, 38(1), 77.
Tschannen-Moran, M. & Hoy, W. K. (2000). A multidisciplinary analysis of the nature, meaning, and measurement of trust. Review of Educational Research, 71, 547-593.
(3) Goddard, R. D., Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, W. K. (2007). A multilevel examination of the distribution and effects of teacher trust in students and parents in urban elementary schools. In W. K. Hoy & M. F. DiPaola (Eds.), Essential ideas for the reform of American schools (pp. 115-138). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.