Has there ever been a more challenging time in schools? Or even our country? As I thought about those questions I recognize that not only are educators unsure about the upcoming year, so are the students and families we serve. So how do leaders put plans in place that allow educators to feel supported and safe, families to feel comforted and students a sense of normalcy. I believe it is the trust that leaders must have within their school community.
Trust is an interesting concept. It is hard to develop trust from others as it takes time and involves many components. However, you can quickly lose trust from others by poor decisions or practices that don’t put priorities at the center point. As I reflected upon how can I continue to build trust in the staff I serve, the parents I partner with and the students I strive to empower – the following actionable steps came to mind:
- Trust is developed by small interactions….relationships are built 1:1. The more opportunities I can develop to interact with students, staff and families in small settings then I have a greater chance to help them feel genuine and valued.
- Create regular opportunities for human interaction that builds relationships. During this COVID-19 challenge, those interactions may be through virtual means like Zoom, Flipgrid but also by phone calls. The chance to dialogue and help people feel listened to is a priority.
- Create the conditions or environment where people feel cared for, supported and nurtured. This simply means to put people first – always.
- Modeling the behaviors we want from others is the best way to set the tone in a school environment. How I respond with words, actions and my attitudes will reflect the mindset we set in our building.This will influence others in their actions and their actions will become habits over time. Habits will become the culture of a building and this is how you build trust
- Develop a common vision and purpose with your school community. This allows everyone to focus on the same work, support each other in their efforts and focus more as a team compared to a collection of individuals.
- Be Vulnerable and Authentic with staff and families. There are times that our school community forgets that leaders are people too. We have our own personal families, we need feedback, we strive for improvement yet desire validation too. When we admit mistakes to others but confirm our purpose is to help their kids; staff and families will understand and give us grace. Leaders recognize that our mistakes don’t define us but rather refine us.
Leaders remove barriers and find ways to turn problems into opportunities. They set the tone and have the single greatest influence upon a school’s culture. As a leader I must adapt and understand what I must do differently to be the most effective leader for our school community. True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to an improved school. I encourage all leaders to reflect upon your prior experiences as you planned for the coming school year. When you can self-analyze your past and what you learned from those experiences, it allows you to focus on spending the right efforts towards building trust. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org