The pioneering work around the importance of building trust in schools is more critical now than ever due to our current political climate, growing xenophobia, and the credibility of our media, judiciary branch and intelligence community being called into question regularly. In my first edition of Failure Is Not an Option ™ , I drew on the work of Bryk and Schneider 2002; 2010) and that of extraordinary practitioners throughout N. America who have acted on the fact that if there’s no relational trust between and among the adults in schools, there’s virtually no progress among students in those same schools in their math and literacy scores over a 5-year longitudinal study period.

Yet, there are many strategies that can be deployed – first by the leader and his or her lead team – to build a trusting culture to the benefit of the students. These strategies would be used  both in classroom settings, and in the development of the pillars of a high-performing culture in general, like the creation of common mission, vision, values and goals.

The strategies mentioned below are part of a series that will be shared over the coming months, most of which can be found in greater detail in Failure Is Not an Option (Corwin, 2013). It is my hope that we exert influence wherever we can on behalf of our children. There is no place in which this is more crucial than in our schools, and there is no better place to begin than in the area of building trusting relations.

The framework for building affinity and relational trust can be captured in part via the diagram below.

Each time we engage people in something positive, their communication, shared reality and affinity is enhanced. For example, Project Boost in New Yok, was designed to give impoverished 8th graders experience they would not otherwise have, as a means of expanding their horizons and ultimately moving them toward seeing college as a viable reality. As a result of a shared experience –like going to a museum or eating in a restaurant– the children, their attending families, and school personnel have a new shared reality, begin to communicate around that experience, and enhance their affinity for one another.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share a number of one-to-one strategies teachers and administrators can deploy to enhance relational trust in schools. If you have any questions prior, feel free to drop me an e-mail at:

Where there’s hope,
Failure Is Not an Option ™

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