I wonder how many people outside the school system realize that the Ministry of Education is trying to build a trusting relationship with them. In Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision For Education In Ontario one of the three major priorities for education in Ontario is to enhance public confidence.
When I look at this messaging, a cynical part of me hears this song in the back of my mind:
Before we can work on the public trusting us, we need to really build up our home teams. We need to build trust between educators.
I’ve been lucky so far in my career. I have always had amazing colleagues and worked in wonderful schools. The more I reflect on what made all of my teams work, the more my mind comes back to trust… deep trust, in each person, rooted in open dialogue and reciprocal hard work.
There will always be kindreds in schools. If you look hard enough you will see staff members laughing together, hugging each other, co-planning together, co-learning, etc. They list each other as contact points in their supply teacher notes. They cry on each other’s shoulders after hard days/weeks/months/years. They are work spouses and BFFs. Michael Fullan refers to this best-friendery as strategic use of peers (sounds kind of cold doesn’t it?):
“Strategic use of peers is the very finding that the McKinsey group arrived at when they studied 20 educationally successful regions or countries around the world. Some of these systems had gone from poor to adequate; others, from adequate to good to great to excellent. What the McKinsey team concluded was that as the capacity of the teachers increased in systems, peers became the greatest source of innovation. Leadership is still critical, but it operates in the service of social contagion. Social capital is the new resource.”
So, how do we honour BFFs in our schools and help others to develop these relationships? How do we build internal trust within our schools? How do we build social capital among teachers? Is it a set of conditions that we need to produce? Is it a safe environment and open dialogue?
I think this DaVinci code is worth cracking.
Until we figure it out, until we learn to truly trust each other, I’m not sure how much trust we can expect from the public.