Trust is the backbone of any healthy relationship. We know that teaching is the business of relationships. This is my story of trust:
A “Normal” School Day in August, 7:30 a.m.
I rushed to school to complete a timesheet for one of my extra responsibilities at school before the first bell rang at 8 a.m. Although I am a contracted certified employee, my extra responsibility is an hourly position. After finding the timesheet, I remembered that the district requires a journal of “how” I earned those hours, so I quickly jotted down my responsibilities for each hour I was claiming that I worked. I finally ran down to the main office to copy my journal, hoping to get all the paperwork to the district courier box before the day began.
I walked into the front office, disgruntled about having to create a journal of my hours I have spent helping teachers and students. My mental soundtrack sounded like, “Why don’t they trust me? Why can’t they see from the paperwork that I am doing my job? Why do I have to jump through more hoops?”
“Lockdown is now in progress. Lockdown is now in progress. Lockdown is now in progess,” blared the intercom as I walked into the office. I looked at my coworkers in surprise- we had our lockdown drill last week- what was going on? I was quickly swept down the corridor with about forty random children who were dropped off at the school before the first bell, and we ended up in the library. The children quietly sat down and I huddled with the other teachers, trying to figure out what to do. The library doors were unlocked by the administration, but no one LOCKED them. We all tried our keys, but they didn’t work. The doors were unlocked, and it was a real lockdown! “Don’t worry,” whispered a teacher, “ the double doors are locked in the hallway.” But that wasn’t the point. My mind instantly pinpointed the main issue- my key doesn’t work in a major room of our building. “Why don’t they trust me to give me a key for a main room?”
After the lockdown ended at 8 a.m. with no injuries or issues, I continued my normal day of teaching. At this point we were in the monthly grade-level RTI meeting. RTI means “Response to Intervention.” As we meet each month as a grade level, we identify students who need interventions in specific subjects, brainstorm ideas of how to help, and gather data from how the interventions do/don’t work. Sounds great, right? Today we went through the process of identifying the students for this year, based on current data of three weeks of instruction. I thought back from our RTI discussions of last year, and how no one was moved to testing to see if they qualified for Special Education services. I finally asked, “So what is the timeframe of when we move these children to testing?” (I have asked this question for two years previously. I was wondering if the answer would be the same. It was.) “Well, it depends on the interventions, data collected, current grades, and the grade level’s reflections,” answered an administrator. Not good enough. I had heard this answer for the previous two years! “No,” I answered, “What is your quantitative answer? What is the flow chart? How many meetings does this take? How many pieces of data and reflective conversations do we need to have to decide that a child needs to be tested for Special Education services?” There was the generic district reply that could be translated in words I cannot write in a professional setting. For the third time in one day- “Why don’t they trust me?”
I dropped off my son at his father’s house, and stopped at the store. While I was shopping, I noticed that an email popped up on my screen with the title, “When you have time to process this….” I thought, “That’s not good. I hope they’re not moving or have cancer.” Sadly, I was right. My friend’s husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. But her message was the exact opposite of what I received all day at school, “We trust our doctors. We trust our decisions. We trust God.”
That was the final breaking point of today. I haven’t stopped crying. Why am I crying? I don’t feel trusted by my district or school administrators. Who is being hurt by this mistrust? The children. Yes, I’m crying because my friend’s husband is sick, but also because they have an enormous trust in the medical and spiritual cures they cannot see but know can help. That trust is not evident in public education.
Trust is valuable. Without trust, we can’t move forward. If we can trust doctors to heal cancer patients, why can’t we trust teachers to heal children?