“I feel that trust is something of a radical act,” says Eula Biss, in a recent interview.  Trusting is radical.  The easier pathway is worst first.  I can feel it in our school.  Yet, we need to nurture a positive atmosphere characterized by trust.

As a school Principal, I am interested in how to create the conditions for a trusting climate. Issues regarding our children are charged with vulnerability and I realize it is imperative to cultivate community.

There you are trust.  How can I serve your blossoming? What do I need to prune?Where shall I fertilize?

I turned to the research on relational trust in schools. It was conclusive. The more we trust each other, the more successful our children will be in school. Trust provides support for the vulnerabilities the learner faces. Trust whispers it is safe for all of us to be vulnerable.

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In his research, Anthony S. Bryk reinforces the roles we all play, “Distinct role relationships characterize the social exchanges of schooling:  teachers with students, teachers with other teachers, teachers with parents, and all groups with the school principal….For a school community to work well, it must achieve agreement in each role relationship in terms of the understandings held about these personal obligations and expectations of others.”

How will we build trust? One simple action at a time.

“Deliberate action taken by any party to reduce this sense of vulnerability in others–to make them feel safe and secure–builds trust across the community.”

Deliberate actions for students, for teachers, for parents.

Here are my intentions this week:

Build Trust By Listening

I’m learning to ask open, honest questions, inviting the shy soul of my community forward.  I don’t want to come with pre-packaged and slick solutions. I want to hold space for processing, emotion, and difficulty. It is a practice to tolerate ambiguity. I will continue to approach everyone in my community with an open heart, while holding the priority of student learning.

Build Trust with Stories

I want to tell the stories of our community, its miracles, its history, and its richness. The story of literacy learning is rich, the complexity of each individual child is wondrous, and the challenge of the personalizing learning for each one is limitless. Together we must explore these stories and discover our pedagogies and practices of promise in a way that reflects our priorities and values.

Build Trust with Support

More than anything my priority is supporting our heroic teachers. Each classroom visit is with a heart of encouragement, each meeting agenda item dedicated to listening to their ideas with discipline, and each interaction is purposed to coach with nourishment. I know it is imperfect, but I am committed to building safety with the team!

Bryk says, “As individuals interact with one another around the work of schooling, they are constantly discerning the intentions embedded in the actions of others. They consider how others’ efforts advance their own interests or impinge on their own self-esteem. They ask whether others’ behaviour reflects appropriately on their moral obligations to educate children well.”

I wonder if my behaviour will reflect appropriately on my moral obligations to educate children well?

It is tall order, and so I will trust.

For the sake of the children,


PS  Bryk’s research cited from the following article:

Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, A. (2003). Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6), 40-45.