Trust in leadership and staff is essential for growth and improvements in any institution. As a new administrator in my school, I have noticed that trust can be built up quickly or slowly and can erode in a flash. I have been in districts where trust has been almost mandated in a top down approach. Using concepts like the speed of trust, which is a great programme, but not when it is forced. Trust is developed over time.
One of the great things I’ve learned about trust at the administration level is that it grows with things that might not be considered educational leadership: getting leaking pipes, broken windows and heating issues fixed as quickly as possible. With the service leadership model, the act of ‘getting things done’ goes a long way in building trust. We must trust that teachers, caretakers and office staff will do their work professionally and competently, with student learning at the forefront.
In schools where there is a low trust quotient, all actions become suspect. The longer it takes for the pipes to stop leaking or the windows remain broken, trust is eroded quickly. When a student is sent down to the office, the teacher needs to know that the reasons for the student being sent down will be taken seriously, quickly and with a satisficatory solution. This may be relationship building excercise with the student, giving them a chance to be heard. If a teacher does not believe that they are being supported, trust is lost. It all comes down to communication. When everyone knows the reason why we do things, even if they disagree, trust can be built.
I must admit that I struggle with this as a new administrator in a school that has a strongly developed staff culture and where administrators seem to move into then out of the school quickly, before relationships can be developed and nutured. We have teachers that have been at the school for over twenty years, while I have worked with four adminstrators in the year and a bit that I have been here. Always, there is the expectation that I will be moving on from the staff, while I state over and over that I expect to be at the school for at least four years.
I like this video showing the difference in trust between cats and dogs. Both have unique perspectives on education. It almost reminds me of the difference in how we support our students. I must appologise for the vertical video syndrome on this clip:
Most research suggests, just like teaching, it takes four to five years before an adminstrator becomes effective in a new school. If it takes 10 000 hours to become an expert, that’s one thousand, one hundred, eleven days or 222 weeks or just over 5 years. That is a lot of time to develop relationships and build trust. Hopefully, I will be given the opportunity to develop the relationships needed for trust.