Building trusting partnerships and relationships in your school is important. What are you willing to do to shore up those relationships? How important is it?
One only needs to Google the term “Birmingham Board of Education” to see for themselves the back-breaking lack of trust among stakeholders in the Birmingham community. Lawsuits from the State Board of Education against the Birmingham Board of Education, restraining orders stopping the Birmingham board from acting, court action to keep the superintendent in office, demonstrations forcing community members to choose sides in the debate about state intervention, legal action from the Alabama Education Association (AEA). All of these are clear indicators of the severed trust among the various stakeholder groups.
How did the trust among these partners become so shattered as to push all of this into the courts and onto the streets? Ask any stakeholder group, and they’ll give you a different answer. Assigning blame isn’t necessary to know that trust must be repaired in order for Birmingham City Schools to move forward.
The only reason that saga was pointed out was to impress upon you the need to build trusting relationships in our schools. Whether you’re a teacher or a parent or a school administrator reading this, now is the time to reflect upon last school year’s relationships and strive to improve upon them in the coming school year. School starts on August 20th.
How do you plan to improve your relationships with others in your school for the 2012-2013 school year?
Trust Relationships Can Improve Student Achievement
One thing we can all agree on is that we want more measurable success for our children in our schools in student achievement (even if we don’t agree on what measures should be used). What if improving student achievement really be as simple as improving trusting relationships? A study measuring the effects of trust among stakeholders in Chicago schools found that higher achieving schools had higher levels of trust, while schools with the lowest achievement rates had little trust (Bryk, Anthony S. and Schneider, Barbara , Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement, Educational Leadership, 2003).
We all know that feeling that we get when we walk into a school and you just feel….welcomed. Most all of us have experienced that school year where we really believe that the teacher is there for our children….gosh, that feels good.
Teachers, you know how it feels to have a respectful conversation with a parent….how you feel respected for your professional expertise and in turn, you give respectful advice to a parent about how to help their child learn.
Those are relationships. Relationships built on trust and respect. Partnerships formed to benefit the student/child. Partnerships built on trust and respect.
The National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships
Building strong partnerships has been central to the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) for as long as PTAs have existed. They’ve created an easy-to-use guide to implement their National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. They developed these standards to assist schools in creating an atmosphere in which partnerships can develop and thrive. The standards are listed below:
Standard 1: Welcoming all families into the school community—Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.
Standard 2: Communicating effectively—Families and school staff engage in regular, two-way, meaningful communication about student learning.
Standard 3: Supporting student success—Families and school staff continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school, and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively.
Standard 4: Speaking up for every child—Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.
Standard 5: Sharing power—Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.
Standard 6: Collaborating with community—Families and school staff collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.
Figuring Out Where Your School Stands Currently Within Those Standards
The National PTA has created an Assessment Guide to allow various school stakeholders a way to determine where they are in their family-school partnership-building. It is what educators refer to as a “rubric” and it allows you to read examples of what a partnership would really look like as it moves through “emerging” and “progressing” into “excelling” at crafting and maintaining great partnerships. Take some time to look through the Assessment Guide to size up your school. If you believe your school could do better, make that suggestion to your parent leadership group, principal, teachers….anyone who might be willing to help you improve those partnerships.
Building Partnerships Is a Mutual Responsibility
In the spirit of “which came first? The chicken or the egg?” I acknowledge the need for both parties, parents and teachers, to be worthy of trust in order for partnerships to form. And if you want to be trusted and respected, you have to give that trust and respect as well.
But what if trust has been broken? How do you repair relationships among teachers and families, school districts and families? Those details are better left to the relationship experts, certainly. The only goal here is to call your attention to the need to improve those relationships…..and to ask you to pledge to improve them.
Remember that the only things you have control over….are the things you have control over. And a couple of things you have control over are your attitude and your actions toward others.
Make a Pledge to Improve Relationships in Your School
Turn your thoughts into action! Make a pledge to improve relationships in your school! There are lots of folks out there who will tell you specifically how to do that….but you probably already know how to improve relationships from your everyday encounters with your community! Use your knowledge!
Tell us how you plan to improve relationships in your school either here or on our facebook page! We will compile your responses and share them in a future post.
Let’s all do our part to improve our schools. Change and improvement truly begins with each one of us.