Today I wanted to talk about why some schools are more effective than others. I started to ponder this idea after reading about what the top 100 places to work have in common in Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?. Trust, not compensation or benefits, is the crucial ingredient that the top 100 places to work had in common. What I found to be most interesting was that the top 100 Places to Work not only shared the common ingredient of trust, but they also outperformed their peers. The message was clear. The businesses where people care about their product or service, care about their colleagues, care about their superiors, and care about the company itself are also the places where more work gets done.
I started to reflect upon my own professional experiences, trust, and what that might look like in a school. I found myself using a Frayer Model to help with my thinking and realized that time spent in a community being cynical about students, parents, teachers, principals, and headmasters greatly hinder learning. I don’t know anyone who wants that, but I have certainly experienced cynicism is schools.
Effective educators create a climate amenable to learning. Principals in particular accomplish this by ensuring that learning is at the heart of the daily activities of all community members. They have established basic qualifiers like safety, orderliness, communication, and scheduling. When all of the details that are taken for granted when they are in place, educational leaders can devote more of their time and energy into developing non-qualifiers. They can spend more time building trust by developing a supportive, responsive relationship with children, parents, and teachers. And like the business world, the Wallace Foundation found that schools with the highest rating of instructional climates out perform schools where principals are in the process of developing an atmosphere of caring and trust. In schools with a positive climate, teachers and other stakeholders are more likely to find that the motives and intentions of learning leaders are good. This has an enormous positive effect on learning.
So what can be done to help develop trust in a learning community? Here are a few easy ideas …
* Expect nothing less than unconditional respect for each and every member is an essential ingredient.
* Say YES, and say it often. Which would you rather hear? “That’s an interesting idea. Let’s explore it further.” or “That’s an interesting idea, but …”? The first certainly feels more trusting than the latter. Buts just get in the way.
* Remember your Ps and Qs. Please and Thank You are extremely powerful words. Your students and colleagues are more likely to be supportive of your ideas and requests when they are asked rather than ordered.
* Focusing on solutions rather than blame will help establish a positive, upbeat and accepting environment. Your students and teachers will be more likely to experiment with change, adjust their practice, and try something new, when they do not fear making a misstep.
I believe that it’s clear, the most effective schools, like the most effective businesses, are those where people care about their colleagues, their administrators, their school, and of course the learners.