The concept of relational trust within an educational setting has been attributed to positive social interactions within school communities. A growing body of research and case studies shows that social trust established between teachers, school leaders, and students’ parents enhances the quality of routine work and becomes a tool for future reforms within such settings. Importantly, strengthening the connections between urban school professionals and parents of low socioeconomic status has shown to improve the academic achievement of students from those families, which positively contributes to the success of overall school experiences.
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This means that the quality of relationships represents a great significance in the discussion of trust within school settings. The purpose of this paper is to underline the importance of relational trust between educators and parents to offer a perspective on the improvement of school experiences and providing educational value to children.
There is a set of different direct role relationships that can characterize social exchanges within the school environment. Teachers interact with students, communicate between each other during work, discuss relevant educational processes with parents at meetings, while all of the mentioned groups can also talk to school management and the principal (Milatz, Lüftenegger, & Schober, 2015). In order for school communities to develop and perform well, it is recommended to achieve a high degree of agreement in each relationship role to enhance the level of understanding regarding both personal obligations and expectations of others (Bryk & Schneider, 2003).
To maintain a cohesive professional community, principals need the support of the faculty. Teachers depend on the decision-making of principals, especially in terms of resource allocation for classrooms. Parents, in turn, depend on the faculty and school management to develop an environment in which children are kept safe and can learn (Bryk & Schneider, 2003). Such a level of dependence among parties develops a sense of mutual vulnerability, which means that deliberate action should be taken to reduce the negative feelings and make everyone involved feel safe and secure.
Respect, personal regard, competence in core responsibilities, and personal integrity represent key components for fostering trust in educational settings. Their combination creates conditions that foster relational trust and strengthen participants’ sense of obligation toward others. An environment that encourages the development of relational trust facilitates social exchanges in which actions that validate the expectations of those involved in the process (Bryk & Schneider, 2003).
In addition, it is essential to mention the role of principals in facilitating and sustaining relationship-based trust. The support of teachers in regards to reaching out to parents is another important component of building a positive connection. Other factors involved in the creation of relational trust within a school community include “voluntary association, a stable school community, and a small school size” (Bryk & Schneider, 2003, p. 5).
It was found that these factors positively contribute to building trust between teachers, school leaders, and parents because they enhance personal communication during social encounters. Relational trust is highly likely to develop at schools with a positive sense of community, which points to the need for educational facilities to increase freedom and respect among everyone involved in the educational process.
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Positive relationships are at the center of building trust within the educational setting. Sadly, in my personal practice, there have been some examples of parents not trusting the educational process and blaming teachers for the poor performance of their children. For instance, there was a case of a family dividing their two sons into two classes to avoid them being distracted by each other. One boy showed a high level of performance, and the other had low grades. Within several months, the parents of the boys came to school to see their teachers and accused the teacher of the student with low grades of not caring about the performance of their son.
The principal and teachers had to explain to the parents that low grades are not an indicator of inadequate education and that all students are different (Badri, Al Nuaimi, Guang, & Al Rashedi, 2017). In such an environment, attaining relational trust is complicated because it requires everyone involved in the process to reshape their understanding and jump-start change (Bryk & Schneider, 2003). Trust is necessary to ensure that parents understand the complexities of the learning process and not blaming educators for the low level of their children’s performance.
Schools with good communication practices rely significantly on cooperative endeavors. Relational trust represents a tool that can keep principals, teachers, and parents together in setting the objectives for children’s educational attainment. In addition, when everyone involved in the learning process trust each other, they are able to foster necessary social exchange as they share knowledge and learn from one another.
Honesty between colleagues and parents will enable genuine conversations that are instrumental in improving the educational process. As children require the support of adults, including teachers and parents, establishing a sense of trust between the latter is essential for providing learners with a positive environment in which they can develop as kind, well-rounded individuals.
Badri, M., Al Nuaimi, A., Guang, Y., & Al Rashedi, A. (2017). School performance, social networking effects, and learning of school children: Evidence of reciprocal relationships in Abu Dhabi. Telematics and Informatics, 34(8), 1433-1444.
Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: A resource for school reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6), 40-45.
Milatz, A., Lüftenegger, M., & Schober, B. (2015). Teachers’ Relationship Closeness with Students as a Resource for Teacher Wellbeing: A response surface analytical approach. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1949.