Friday, July 25, 2014

Trust Matters!

One thing we talked about at length in the cognitive coaching course that I took at the start of the summer holidays was trust.  Over and above the fact that trust is absolutely essential in any coaching relationship, we talked about how trust is important throughout a school and that it is everyone's job to develop a climate of trust.  Trust is important in the relationship of us as professionals with parents, in the relationship between teachers and the principal, in the relations teachers have with each other and in the relations teachers have with students.  What I found interesting however is that different sorts of trust are important in each of these relationships.

There are 3 different types of trust in schools:
  • organic trust - which was defined as felt value
  • contractual trust
  • relational trust - what our expectations are of others, and what responsibility we have to others.  Relational trust is founded on our beliefs and our observation of others' behavior.
While I feel there are positive relations built on trust in my current school, I used to work in a place where this was not the case and where fear, mistrust and suspicion were rife.  Even though relations between teachers and students and their families were positive, a lack of trust among the faculty still damages learning for children.  How do we go about judging trustworthiness in schools?   Bill and Ochan Powell discussed how this has 4 main aspects:
  • mutual respect - which can be evidenced by genuine listening
  • competence - the capacity to make learning successful for students
  • personal regard - going beyond our contractual responsibilities
  • integrity - walking the talk
Now here is the interesting thing:  Bill and Ochan explained the importance of a leader giving a window into who s/he is in order for trust to develop, but in addition talked about how we look for different things in a leader when deciding whether he or she is trustworthy (competence, consistency and integrity) than when we decide on the trustworthiness of our teaching colleagues.  When asked about trust among teachers, competency was actually seen as being the least important!  Perhaps this is because many teachers work in isolation, so the competence of a colleague in a different grade or subject has little bearing on their own regard for that colleague?

As far as teachers are concerned, studies by Tschannen-Moran have indicated there are 5 facets of trust that are important to teachers.  In order of importance these are:
  1. Benevolence: caring, goodwill, positive interactions, supporting teachers, expressing appreciation for effort, being fair and guarding confidential information
  2. Honesty: integrity, telling the truth, keeping promises, honoring agreements, being authentic, accepting responsibility, avoiding manipulation, being real
  3. Openness:  communicating openly, sharing information, delegating, shared decision making, sharing power
  4. Reliability:  consistency, being dependable, showing commitment, being dedicated and diligent
  5. Competence:  setting an example, problem solving, conflict resolution, working hard, setting standards, being flexible, handling difficult situations

A school that values trust will be one that is most likely to function as a professional learning community.  In such a school, the school culture will be one that fosters cooperation, collaboration and caring.  

Photo Credit: Paul A. Rizer via Compfight cc

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