Megan Tschannen-Moran TRUST MATTERS—Leadership for Successful Schools
School improvement is often the most important and challenging task we do as school leaders. It frequently requires changing and aligning new systems to facilitate equitable opportunities for learning. Most building leaders would not argue the value of trust in this process. Although, the harder question to ask--is trust a priority in our school improvement process? Trust Matters author Megan Tschannen-Moran shares key practices of principals who not only have high expectations, but also understand “trustworthy leadership is at the heart of productive schools” (p. 14).
The author summarizes the five facets of trust as “key ingredients” needed for principals to lead successful schools. Positive change occurs when a principal models and demonstrates trust with benevolence, honesty, openness, reliability, and competence, but they cannot lead successful schools alone. Interdependent relationship exists between the principal and teacher and to expedite learning they must work together.
Tschannen-Moran uses current research to support her argument of the value of trust with school leaders. Although the reader will also find just as compelling the examples of three different principals and the level of trust they establish with their staff and the results that follow or not. Fred, Gloria, and Brenda are building principals all with good intent and more than wiling to engage in the seemingly insurmountable number and type of tasks required, but with very different outcomes.
Fred, who was well liked but consistently did not show competence, was unreliable, and would rather hand the decisions over to others. His faculty did not view him as trustworthy. Gloria was his opposite. She took on too much responsibility and was adamant exactly how the change should occur. Gloria leads the charge by taking ownership, but her tenor and tone were too assertive, and decision-making was a solo activity rather than a collaborative conversation. Staff questioned her motives and her lack of care on their perspective. Their level of trust was almost nonexistent.
Throughout Trust Matters we also learn about principal Brenda. Her genuine care of each of her staff was consistently evident is her day-to-day routines. She expected a lot, but she gave a lot. The school improvement effort was shared in open and on-going conversations. Agreement was not always reached, but common goals lead the discussions with opportunities to learn from each other. Brenda was dependably reliable and often available. Her competence was evident in her knowledge of evidence-based research on teaching and learning. She was humble and compassionate, but not without faults. Brenda continued to learn from false steps and the strengths of others.
Leaders aspire to be like Brenda, but not without first being a bit like Fred and Gloria myself included. Actually when reading Trust Matters I continued to make a list of all the “Brendaism” I was inspired to do, or do more of. The list was long but not insurmountable and frankly I found the specific actions to be inspirational and reflective of the work of a turnaround principal. A wise and trusted colleague thought of the leadership transformation as moving away from the practices of Gloria towards the performance of a Brenda. Either way “the building of trust in schools requires time, effort, and leadership, the investment will bring lasting returns” (p. 267).
I am reluctant to put this book on my shelf, nestled with all my other favorites reads. I’ve packed it around with me the past few months and continue to read and rediscover the list of “Brendaism” I created. I would encourage new readers to do the same.