#dailywritingchallenge – Trust

Wow, what a big word ‘trust’ is.  The first thing that comes to mind is the human obsession with team building exercises designed to encourage trust between groups of people.  As fun as they are, they always feel forced to me.  We don’t need activities like pushing people through rope spider webs to tell us how to trust another person.  Initially trust is a gut feeling which is then developed over time.

The reason I said that it is such a big word is that if you start looking at all the areas in life which require an element of trust, you realise that pretty much every area requires trust.  It could be something as simple as trusting inanimate objects such as your alarm clock, toaster or fridge to work in order for your day to start the way you want it to.  It can be much more complex, filled with emotion and memories such as the trust shared between a married couple or the trust given by a small child to his or her parents.

I woke up this morning to news articles talking about Donald Trump effectively disowning the WHO.  This is an example of the battle that we are all facing at the moment.  Emotions and nerves are torn to shreds and the trust for others and comforting systems we usually rely upon disappears.  With the particular person I have just mentioned, I think that trust is a constant issue and something most people in such positions of power feel.  Democratic politics is based on trust.  The lack of trust between a leader and the people they are leading can sometimes end badly.  We have seen on so many occasions in history, the story of the populist figure voted into power by the people who trust that this time they will make the necessary changes.  They start well.  Hitler, Amine, Mugabe and so many others started off with huge, unprecedented support and trust from their supporters.  Sadly it is also trust, or lack of, which spelled the downfall of these leaders.  They lost trust in everybody and became paranoid.

In the school setting, trust is just as important.  Parents trust teachers, teachers trust parents, school leaders trust both and students trust their teachers.  Some of the trust is wary and guarded and some of it is freely given without a care in the world but if you remove any part of the trust jigsaw, the cracks begin to show.  If parents don’t trust the teachers and the school then they start to find problems with everything.  We all know those parents, the ones who complain all the time and always start their complaints with, ‘you are doing a great job, but…’ I have worked in the private sector all my career and the pressure from the parents is there all the time.  They are your customers who are, in some cases, paying exorbitant fees.  Even the most level-headed parent expects to see something for their money.   For many they trust the teachers because that’s what you do.  Teachers are respectful members of society and they always strive to their job properly.  Others don’t see it that way.  They are making another investment, an investment in the education of their child.  They don’t believe in blind trust, they believe in results.  I always joke that my customer service experience in retail helps me deal with difficult parents but in the end it is the truth.  You need to build the relationship and trust with the parents as much as you would with someone coming into your shop to buy your product.  You need to play the game by telling them what they want to hear whilst remaining the person in charge of the conversation.  In the end you are the expert in this particular field whether they realise it or not.

When it comes to staff and school leadership, it is topic that I could write about for pages.  In any leadership role, in any sector, building trust is the key to success.  Nothing else will work.  If there are things that need changing, they won’t happen overnight and you need to focus your attention on making sure that the team you are leading are with you before you start cracking the whip, if you do that at all.  I am yet to be a leader so what I am saying is hypothetical but when I get to that point I will be taking key thoughts with me.  I have worked with average leaders, I have worked with poor leaders and I have worked with inspirational leaders.  The latter are inspirational to me, not because they have 5 PHDs or are on every board and committee going, but because I trust them implicitly.  From the moment I met them I knew that I would be able to learn a lot from them.  As educators they have helped me grow into the teacher I want to be.  They have been able to share experience and advice which has clicked and made sense.  I trusted them enough to take on the advice and to give back.  I was happy to invest my time, my blood, sweat and tears, into helping them achieve their vision because I trusted them.  Even now, after we have parted ways, I would still do the same.  With the leaders I have not trusted, that effort and devotion is harder to come by.  If I feel that for whatever reason there is something not quite right, my trust falters and with it my desire to help and support.  If this feeling is a common one across the staff body it becomes very hard for the person or people in question to fully get what they want.  Some may look to change but many will go down the route of naming, shaming and turning the workplace in to a hostile environment.  When I become a leader, I want to be in the position because I feel that I can make a difference to the lives of the children in my care and to the members of staff I am leading.  Leadership for me isn’t a badge of honour to stick on my CV and so I want to get to that point having made strong working relationships and having built trust rather than jostling and trying to shout the loudest.  It won’t be easy, and for those already there, it still isn’t.

Finally, the trust the children share with us, the teachers is definitely the most important.  As a parent, I know that children put blind faith in adults.  They aren’t old enough to understand the nuances of relationships.  To them, adults such as family members and teachers are people they can love wholeheartedly.  For many of the students in our classes we don’t actually have to start from the beginning.  The trust is already there and it is our job to vindicate the choice of the child to put their trust in us.  There will of course be children who have had bad experiences previously, either at home or sadly at school and those children will require more time to come round to the idea that we are there to help them.  This trust allows them to learn as they take down the barriers and allow us to seize their minds and fill it full of ideas, knowledge and skills.  We need to be careful with the power that we wield but it is a truly exciting position to be in.  The trust also needs to be mutual.  We cannot command trust if we don’t show that we trust them.  This is the hardest part of the relationship but if we prove to them that they can trust people and that those people trust them then this will set them up for the future and hopefully they too will be people who can be trusted.

 

“It is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest, that holds human associations together.” —H. L. Mencken

 

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