Hey educators: Are you trustworthy? Here are 4 vital signs for identifying and assessing trust in schools

Trust is unwieldy, vague, and fuzzy. It’s complex, huge, and complicated. And, by the way, it is essential to our schools.

[Editor’s note: This post is the second in a new column for eSchool News. In her column on ‘Personal Development’, eSchool News Columnist Jennifer Abrams focuses on tangible takeaways, tools and teachings that all those working in schools can use to develop their leadership. Read more about the column and browse future content here.]

Trust is a big word. It may be just one syllable and it’s certainly not a word the Spelling Bee organizers would consider a great challenge (or have on their radar at all), but in more important ways it is huge.

Its dictionary definition is well-known, easily understood, and…meaningless, most of the time. Because in schools, it’s the connotation we attach to the word and the deep reservoirs of associated emotion that determine how we truly define it. Trust is unwieldy, vague, and fuzzy. It’s complex, huge, and complicated. And, by the way, it is essential: research says trust is critical to our schools moving forward.

There’s quite a bit happening in just five letters.

“I don’t trust you.” “I feel unsafe on this team.” “I just don’t know if we can move forward unless I have built a trusting relationship with the faculty.”

I don’t disagree with the teachers and administrators who’ve shared their thoughts and feelings with me about a lack of trust and its crucial role on their perception of support in their job. And while I acknowledge the prevalence of uncomfortable encounters in unhealthy school climates, I can’t help but find myself asking, “What am I doing to be a trustworthy person myself? What can I do and say to build that trust?

The Research Behind Trust

Many books, blogs, and articles have been put out on the subject both in and outside the field. From Megan Tschannen-Moran’s Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools to Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything to Tony Bryk and Barbara Schneider’s Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement, the importance of trust has been well-established, and many great minds have established effective practices for enhancing it.

In their research, Bryk and Schneider demonstrated that schools with a high degree of trust are more likely to make changes that help students achieve. According to these two researchers, a successful school has a faculty that lives aloud the idea of trust. They trust the other faculty and employees on campus.

(Next page: 4 ways to assess trust)

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