Trust me, I’m a teacher.

Can teachers be trusted? If not, what assumptions are being made? That they went through a degree, a further qualification or training period, put themselves in front of dozens if not hundreds of children every week, in a position of care and responsibility, often with little appreciation, lots of scrutiny, endless demands for evidence, public and media vilification and a pretty harsh workload….and all for the what? For an easy life? For the money? Oh yes, and of course the holidays…(yawn, we’ve all had THAT discussion plenty of times).

In my capacity as a CPD leader, I see bright and eager new prospective trainees enter the profession, desperate to convey their enthusiasm and capabilities for teaching, for their subjects, for pastoral care, for team working and for improvement. I remember being in that position myself 25 years ago. In training our students and NQTs, I see how overwhelmed they often are with the sense of responsibility…their own classes whose successes rest largely on the experiences they can offer, evaluate and refine. There comes a point when I have to trust that this person can do this job at a level appropriate to their career stage. I’ll make sure there are checks, support will be in place, adjustments made, expectations clarified, if needed. They have to trust in me that I can judge when this support is needed and when increased ¬†independence has been earned.

With those in more established positions, I have to know that classes are being stimulated and challenged, that progress is being made, that subject knowledge is still developing, that reflections on practice are happening and improvements are being made, that children are cared for, safe and valued. I have to know this, for the sake of the children, and yet trust this, for the sake of the teacher who I also value. Once trust has been established, I make light-touch investigations, supportive observations, engage in adult discussions rather than endless form filling and box ticking. Trust is qualitative. Trust is dynamic. Trust is developmental.

So yes, it is important to ask what it means to trust teachers – and it is time for us to be renegotiating this – but it’s also important to believe and accept, and not endlessly question and doubt, that our commitment to our work, our knowledge, capability, compassion and skill, will ensure the best outcomes for pupils.


3 thoughts on “Trust me, I’m a teacher.

  1. An interesting read, Lisa.

    I just have to ask, though, what do you do as a leader of CPD/a leader at any other level, if you fear that there is someone within your team whose competence or integrity you CAN’T trust? Trust is good, but blind trust/naivete not so much! Just interested in your thoughts on this.

    I’ve also known schools where the staff default position is NOT to trust the leadership, whether that’s merited or not. So it does work both ways. Building mutual trust is crucial, I agree.

  2. I suppose I’ve had good grounding in my school, and great role models, for this not to have come up (much) for me (save for occasional ‘tweaks’ and minor accountability issues) – so actually “fear” is a good word choice. You’ve caused me to really investigate where I think the imperative for trust lies in our day to day operations.
    My first response was “We don’t let that happen” – so I wondered how…..
    I run a department of 6 CPD tutors – I often lose them, as the PD dept is successful in mentoring its own, and they move into Head of Dept or other positions – so I’m always on the lookout for talent. New recruits to the staff, staff who are developing well, staff who have been motivated by a new experience or discovery in their professional life are on my radar and they are offered opportunities to put themselves into more demanding situations through INSETs or presentations to peers. This means I need to know staff, talk freely, open up discussions between peers for these moments to be noticed and commented on.
    The departments makes internal appointments – so we already know the track record of applicants in terms of their teaching and wider professional impact. I’m already on the lookout for future members of the team. Our school has a ‘joined up’ approach to many aspects of T&L, so taking up opportunities such a request to teach in our observation room, (see UKEd mag) would be seen as very useful experiences for staff who want to develop their teaching skills…The trust here comes from our acknowledgement and appreciation of their commitment – it is mutual from the outset. Therefore it’s not ‘blind’.
    In terms of staff not trusting the leadership – this is much more tough, as in those situations I believe the managers are often unaware that this is even the case! There is always a greater onus on leaders to be trustworthy, rightly, yet I “fear” this is not always the case in some schools. It’s be an interesting topic for an #SLTchat one Sunday night….

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