Reliability Helps Teachers Strengthen Bonds of Trust

I want to be trusted. You want to be trusted. Being considered untrustworthy is a heavy emotional burden for teachers in particular because children and parents place so much faith in them. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, building trust requires five factors: kindness, reliability, competency, honesty and openness.

Last time I made the case for kindness; today I’ll talk about reliability.

Being there when you say you’ll be there

Reliability helps teachers build trust with parents, children and colleaguesYour work as a teacher, no matter how smart or dedicated you are, depends upon your ability to deliver what you say you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Meeting a deadline early, handing back graded tests, quizzes and essays in days rather than weeks, and communicating promptly with parents are all ways to make reliability come alive in your practice.

Reliability means arriving to work on time (remembering that being early never hurts), saving sick days for when you are truly ill, and working well with your colleagues. As my father, the epitome of reliability, put it: “As a grown-up, your job is to suit up and show up.”

Reliability is more than just actions

Today’s highly interdependent schools require teachers to work closely with colleagues. Gone are the days of the lone-wolf teacher living behind a closed classroom door and interacting with others only in the lunch room.

This team environment is a key reason why you need to be reliable in your thoughts as well as your actions. This means you consider all sides of an issue when working with others, staying consistent in your beliefs and conveying them consistently. Your peers will come to you with ideas and problems, and they’re counting on you to be the same person every time — contemplative, a good listener and open to other people’s perspectives.

Under-promise and over-deliver

It’s one thing to do what you say you’ll do, and it’s something completely different to go far beyond that expectation. Your reputation for reliability grows incredibly when you not only hit an expectation but shatter it.

If an administrator asks for your help on a school activity, you have a choice: doing the bare minimum or working extra hard to make that activity the best it can be. Taking the extra-effort route is a huge step in showing the kind of professional you are.

Of course, the reverse of this is talking a good game, and then failing to hit even the most minimum of expectations. Don’t say it unless you’re willing to do it.

Trust is too easy to squander

Be very careful about hurting your reputation, especially if you’re a new staff member. Everyone is under a microscope when they begin a new position, and you’ll quickly find all your actions are being watched for indicators of your overall competence.

This isn’t a good or a bad thing, but rather a natural effect of being new. If you guarantee that something will be done, get it done.

There’s no flash or sizzle to being reliable

Reliability is somewhat boring. No one gets a pay raise or huge kudos for doing what they say they will — though not doing what you’re supposed to do will create a huge hit to your reputation and future prospects.

There is a certain “workman-like” quality to being reliable. Showing up every day, doing the best you can and being there for others are the best ways to add the pillar of reliability to the trust you’re building with others.

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Brian P. Gatens is the superintendent of schools for the Emerson Public School District in Emerson, New Jersey. He has been an educator for more than two decades, working at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. In “From the Principal’s Office,” Gatens shares advice, provides insights, and gives guidance on everything from what principals look for when interviewing teaching candidates to how to work with overly protective parents. His front-line assessments supply candid perspectives on school life.

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