Principals say their top job is to build trust
- Three new Chicago principals face different challenges at their schools, but all agree that building trust among stakeholders is the top priority for the coming year, according to interviews In a recent Chalkbeat article.
- Other priorities include strengthening school identity, clearing up misconceptions about their schools, finding ways to help parents succeed, and building connections to the community.
- Veteran principal Mark Grishaber at Taft High School encourages new principals to identify their own set of priorities and hold on to their vision as they face the new year.
School leaders won't be effective if students, staff members, parents — and even community members — are skeptical of what they are trying to achieve or how they are trying to get there. “The first job of any leader is to inspire trust," according to Stephen Covey. "Trust is confidence born of two dimensions: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, skills, results, and track record. Both dimensions are vital.”
Building trust among teachers requires honesty and authenticity. It also requires that principals listen to the needs and thoughts of teachers and keep their promises. And though it seems counterintuitive for a leader to place more responsibilities on teachers, delegation is a form of trust, too. Trust is also two-way street. Teachers must also take steps to build a trusting relationship with principals.
For schools to be successful, they also need the support of families and the community. Building relationships among families, particularly with minority, lower-income and English learner families is especially important, as these families tend to be less trustful of school leaders and often less involved in school activities. Principals may also have to rebuild trust with the community, especially if something negative has occurred to shake that trust.
“Trust in schools comes down to one thing: psychological safety," writes educator Vicki Zakrzewski. "By this I mean safety to speak one’s mind, to discuss with openness and honesty what is and isn’t working, to make collective decisions, to take risks, to fail—all things researchers tell us are required for deep organizational change and transformation.”