Just like family-teacher partnerships, a strong relationship between teachers and administrators is important for ensuring that students have the academic support they need. At the heart of this partnership is trust—something that takes time and conscious effort to build.
Trust is not only important for a professional relationship between educators and leadership—it is the cornerstone of a healthy school environment. Read on to learn how to build and sustain trust between teachers and administrators in your work as an educational leader.
1. Build opportunities for open, two-way communication
Transparent communication builds trust by keeping teachers informed about decisions, policies, and changes affecting them and their students. When administrators openly share why decisions or changes were made, it fosters inclusion and reduces uncertainty. Teachers should always be given an opportunity to voice concerns related to these updates, even if it doesn’t result in a change of policies, so their input is valued and they know they are being heard.
Be visible and welcoming to teachers in your school, and find ways to interact with them on a regular basis. Get to know your faculty and take an interest in them not only as a teacher but as a human being. Being present in the school community builds a sense of accessibility and establishes you as someone teachers can come to when challenges arise.
Additionally, establish open communication with teachers. Newsletters and forms of one-way communication can be helpful for sharing updates, but they don’t give teachers an opportunity to respond. Use focused and time-efficient meetings, video calls, one-on-one emails, and other two-way communication methods to seek input from teachers while connecting in a more meaningful way.
2. Actively listen to teachers
Active listening allows you to better understand a teacher’s perspective and provide them with support. To truly listen to teachers, you must be both approachable and responsive. Some teachers may not feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns without a clear invitation.
To ensure that all teachers feel welcome to communicate, consider holding open office hours or “listening hours.” Practice empathy, be understanding of teachers’ concerns and challenges, and go beyond acknowledgment by valuing their perspective and helping to find solutions.
According to Edutopia staff member and instructional coach Logan Beth Fisher, the following are great ways to determine which issues you can advocate for in your district to support your teachers:
- Open-ended surveys
- In-depth interviews
- Focus groups
- Digital suggestion boxes
3. Engage in collaborative decision-making
Collaboration fosters a culture of mutual respect and trust in leadership. Involve teachers in decision-making processes that directly impact their work. When educators actively contribute to curriculum development, school policies, and other pivotal decisions, they begin to develop a sense of ownership and a vested interest in the school’s success.
To foster a sense of community within your school, create opportunities for teachers to collaborate with each other and with you. For example, group planning sessions can give you and your teachers the chance to share strategies and work through challenges together.
These collaboration sessions should be implemented early in an initiative’s process. If they are not included early on teachers may feel that they are being asked to agree with a decision that they had little involvement in developing. After you’ve had a decision-making session, plan a follow-up with actionable steps or make changes to ensure that decisions made are truly collaborative.
4. Invest in school resources and professional development
When teachers know you support them in their work, they are more likely to trust that you will act in their best interests. Ask teachers what support they need to carry out their responsibilities and ensure they have access to it. This can include access to technology, resources, and up-to-date teaching materials. Regular check-ins can help identify specific needs, allowing you to tailor resource allocation accordingly.
Also, invest in professional development opportunities that are relevant to your teachers’ needs and goals. By doing this, you show a commitment to helping teachers grow in their careers–all while improving the quality of teaching in your school.
To determine the professional development options that will be most helpful to your teachers, conduct surveys or group discussions on the challenges teachers are facing and discover what topics they want to delve into. If your teachers are interested in learning more about literacy development, for example, you could consider holding a science of reading training session.
5. Celebrate teacher achievements
Acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of teachers. This can include recognizing important milestones, innovative teaching methods, or positive contributions to the school community. Publicly acknowledging teachers’ efforts boosts morale and reinforces that their hard work is valued by the administration.
Recognizing a teacher’s strengths and successes as they happen builds confidence and motivation. This positive reinforcement creates a supportive environment, encouraging teachers to try new strategies and continue improving.
Take time to process when a strategy didn’t work out as anticipated. Open-ended questions can be helpful to assess together what worked, what didn’t, and what steps can be taken to improve the outcome in the future.
6. Provide clear, actionable, and constructive feedback
Shared goal setting between administrators and teachers is essential for creating a collaborative and cohesive educational environment. When both parties align their objectives, it promotes a unified approach towards achieving overall school success.
As you conduct teacher evaluations, give educators feedback that is relevant to their current needs. Instead of general comments, highlight specific teaching successes or possible areas of growth. Providing clear examples with your feedback helps teachers understand the context and reflect on ways to improve.
Along with communication, feedback should be a two-way conversation with opportunities for educators to share their perspectives. Encourage teachers to share constructive feedback with you for possible solutions they have in mind, to build a sense of partnership.
By adopting these trust-building exercises and strategies, administrators can create a culture that supports teachers and allows students to thrive.
Waterford.org holds online and in-person professional development sessions to train educators on successful strategies for district, school, and classroom management. Talk to a Professional Services representative to learn more and plan a session for your faculty.