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  • by Blaine Helwig

Trustful Relationships – A Cornerstone for Campus Success

Updated: Jan 25

Over the last couple decades, I have always been amazed at the inability of people to 'read' other people. It is a skill set we learn largely from our parents and from social settings. Most folks are able to pick-up on other’s thinking due to the fact, that most people are an open book. They do not try to hide too much, and if they do try to hide, they give it away anyway. Simple conversations, our patterns and daily interactions tell others what we think and believe, and what we are going to most likely do in situations in the future. Observant and curious people are always stripping the veneer off others to better understand them - taking a look under the hood of the engine, so to speak.

Teachers and principals are constantly ‘reading’ one another. What we do and say often communicates and reveals much about what we value. Where we put our time, efforts and money all too often tells others – this is important to me. If the principal conveys this or that on a subject, the campus faculty follows suit - agreeing or not agreeing, and they react in one of three ways. They stay at the school and ‘put up’ with the principal’s decision(s); they stay because they agree with their decision(s); or they look for other opportunities at a new school. The fact that a principal is surprised that one of their great teachers is leaving dissatisfied for a nearby school is a mystery to me. Why? The principal has been telling the teacher to leave in one form or another for some time, and teachers need a reason to travel to a school that is not convenient or easy. The only person in denial is the principal. Consequently, campus administrators must take care in their actions and behaviors since they are always communicating their core expectations to their staff.

Teachers are also under a microscope. Principals are evaluating staff and campus needs throughout the school year not only the upcoming school year, but quite often, for years to come. The principal consciously and unconsciously assigns value to a teacher’s contribution to the campus. That evaluation is highly determined by their skill set in the classroom, but it also is dependent upon their behavior and interaction with others. If a highly skilled classroom teacher has negatives in an unrelated classroom area, the principal evaluates its relative effect compared to their teaching efficacy. Consequently, teachers must take care in their actions and behaviors since they are often communicating value to the school administration.

A school is a symbiotic interactive relationship machine, but until trust is established, all stakeholders are ‘reading’ each other from each other’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Trust is time dependent; hence, if the teacher or principal is new to the campus, it always takes about 6 months of consistent behavior for trustful relationships to soundly develop with impactful significance. A school’s culture is constructed on the building of positive faculty relationships - brick by brick, carefully over time, and both teachers and administrators collectively share in the development of a respectful and relational school climate or student achievement will be negatively affected. However, unfair or not, the principal must be the primary and constant driving force in establishing a campus culture of trust and respect.


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