Building trust between parents and teachers is the key to reopening schools
Schools that build trust with their communities can reduce fears surrounding reopening. Spencer Platt / Getty Images A New York City mother said she kept her son at a remote school during the pandemic because she believed the city’s education officials were “lying a lot.” “These buildings are old and not properly ventilated,” she told reporter Melinda Anderson. “They don’t have the supplies they need and they don’t even have nurses.” One of the country’s teachers’ union leaders has also repeatedly heard that teachers have too often seen no soap or running water in school bathrooms. Teachers in Chandler, Arizona, have accused their school board of breaking promises to close schools if COVID-19 becomes widespread locally. New Jersey mother wishing her child to attend school in person “has lost a lot of confidence in the district” and can send her child to Catholic school in the fall of 2021 after experiencing repeated openings and closings and unpredictable at his local public school. All of these situations represent instances where trust has been broken between parents or teachers and schools in their communities. While most of the reporting and debate during the pandemic has focused on things like wearing masks and adequate spacing between students and ventilation, the topic of trust seems to be getting much less attention. As an education historian, I believe that if the importance of trust is continually ignored or overlooked, it could have serious consequences for schools across the country. Racial factors at play Confidence in school safety varies among communities. In national polls, white parents were much more likely than other parents to favor sending their children to school in person during the pandemic. The stark racial differences should come as no surprise given that black and Hispanic communities have been more severely affected by COVID-19. But pandemic vulnerability is not the only difference. A parent leader in Memphis, Tennessee, told a reporter about his community’s reaction to returning students to school: “For generations these public schools have failed us and prepared us for prison. , and now it’s like they’re preparing us to die. “Asian American parents worry about the harassment their children might face on returning to school. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images Parents of Asian descent in Chicago, New York and Fairfax, Va., are also more likely than white parents in those cities to keep their children in a distant school. A key factor has been the desire to protect their children from anti-attack. Asians who intensified during the pandemic. These attacks are widely believed to be a byproduct of the blame President Donald J. Trump has blamed on China as being responsible for the spread of COVID-19. How to understand these different levels of mistrust of different segments of society? Elements of trust The key is relational trust, a term coined by sociologists Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider. Relational trust deals with how people see the unity of purpose around them. Do they think the people they depend on have the right intentions, the essential skills, and the integrity to work for the common good? In schools “which operate in turbulent external environments,” teachers and other school staff risk their professional careers and their sense of self at work. Parents risk the future of their children and their families. Given the important issues, that is to say the health and safety of people, relational trust is essential. During a pandemic, it became more evident that teachers and students often work and study in buildings where plumbing – and particularly heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems – require major repairs. The physical condition of schools is critical. Much research has shown that the school environment can influence students’ academic performance, as well as student health. But with the pandemic – and reports of the failure of the federal government and many state governments – relationship trust is one of the victims. White House pushes for teacher vaccination The Biden administration addressed the issue of relationship trust when it pushed states in early March 2021 to prioritize teachers and other school staff for vaccinations. At the end of the month, all teachers were eligible for vaccines in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Americans agree with the emphasis on vaccinating educators: In a February national poll, 59% of American adults polled said schools should wait until all teachers have a chance to be vaccinated before they are vaccinated. reopen completely. State officials may wonder if key decisions could erode relational trust. For example, should distance learning students be required to enter a school for an achievement test? The Biden administration isn’t waiving all testing requirements, but it discourages the idea that students should “be brought into school buildings for the sole purpose of taking a test.” Listening to parents’ needs and concerns is a step that schools can take to build relational trust. Spencer Platt / Getty Images In contrast, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has ruled that all students must take tests in person. Parents want state and school officials to respect their judgment on whether to send children back for testing only. If education officials want to build relational trust with parents, this will mean letting them manage risks for their children. Investing in Safety Beyond the 2020-2021 school year, relational trust can be built if public money is invested in what will ensure the safety of students and staff. One component of the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan is US $ 45 billion to remove sources of pollution such as lead pipes from schools and daycares. With the pandemic drawing attention to the dangers of being indoors, cleaning up lead, asbestos and other sources of pollution should help build relationship trust. The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan’s water supply is just the most visible example; tests revealed high levels of lead in 37% of schools where drinking water was tested. Coping with facility conditions also requires empowering employees to raise environmental and health concerns. In Chicago, for example, a new employment contract includes a provision for school safety committees. [Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter.] Ways to Build Trust The theory of relational trust suggests that schools should build respect and involve the community in the operation and decision-making of the school. Getting into the community may seem as simple as a bilingual education program for parents regarding college attendance or a program to hire parents as family liaison officers in the school district. Or, with organizations that specialize in this work, education officials can bring schools, parents, and community members together to define and solve common problems. It may seem absurd to assume that parents and communities bring unique wisdom. But even done imperfectly, this type of summons helps build relational trust. As researchers hear from parents, the direct experience of schools respecting parenting perspectives alters their relationship with schools: “I have more courage (courage) now” to raise concerns with policy makers. school, a parent told educational leadership researcher Susan Auerbach. “Here you come and how can I say it, with confidence: there is confidence here,” another parent told education teacher Ann M. Ishimaru and her colleagues. “We already know this place and other teachers help us more with the children.” This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Sherman Dorn, Arizona State University. Read more: America gets D + for school infrastructure – but federal COVID relief could pay for many repairs Culture of trust is essential for school safety Sherman Dorn receives research funding from Spencer Foundation, United States Department of Education and Arizona State University, and is a member of the National Education Policy Center.