As part of Teaching Channel's #TchWellness series, I'm connecting with a series of authors who are helping me -- and you -- understand issues impacting teachers. Our first, Nan Russell, author of Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation, recently sat down with me for an interview. Her work, not limited to education, explores how trust is developed and sustained.
I asked Nan a series of questions. A few pertained to our evaluation system and the disconnect that often occurs between administrators and teachers around trust. Though not my current experience, I've been in schools where the main stressor in the building is the perceived distrust between administrators and staff. This tension can be divisive and polarizing, decreasing the amount of collaborative, productive conversation.
Perceived trust impacted my teacher wellness in profound ways, so I began with questions that were more focused on what the administrator can do to create trust in a school. Nan, in her calm yet affirming voice, told me I had it backwards. It wasn't that the administrator would singularly inspire trust in the relationship. If trust was to be developed, it would need to start with me. Puzzled, I reflected internally, almost defensively. Surely I had tried to create close, trusting relationships. Yet, if I'm honest, I often shifted blame to others for their actions that led to distrust, void of any role I played in that dynamic.
What started as a conversation turned into a listening opportunity. Nan told me that if I wanted to get trust, I first had to give it. I suppose this likens to the golden rule -- treat others the way you want to be treated. And as simple and straightforward as this was, it was hard to imagine. With all my educational baggage, societal conversations surrounding bad teachers, and intense parental scrutiny, I'd have to put all that aside and give trust -- equally -- to students, families, administrators, and colleagues.
I pondered this interview for a week. I was so busy finding blame outside myself, I'd failed to look inward, at the power I had in creating trusting relationships. I realized that my inability to trust the intentions and efforts of others was clouding my judgement in unhealthy ways. Unintentionally, Nan helped to free me from the negative feelings I was having toward individuals within the educational system who had treated me unfairly.
Most importantly, Nan reminded me of the "most people rule." That is, "most people, most of the time, have good intentions."
So I reflected:
A parent that's complaining repeatedly simply wants the best for their child.
A student with intense behaviors is likely having an internal conflict I'm unaware of or unable to see, but at his/her core, wants to do well.
An administrator with high expectations wants to profoundly impact student learning in positive ways.
This month, when you have a challenging conversation with a student, parent, colleague, or boss, I want you to remember the "most people rule." The intentions of the other person are likely good. Their perspective is valuable. Beginning with the assumption that the other person's intentions are good, you can then relax your heart into a place where you can be free to trust. Maybe you have to press reset a time or two, abide by norms, or agree to disagree, but at the core of your thinking can be an ability to connect with others in trusting ways. As you suspend judgement, you'll free yourself to live with peace and calm, both qualities of a wellness mentality. And, when you're ready, give trust away and understand that over time, once you respect and believe in others, "most people" will respect and believe in you in return.