Trust and Vulnerability in Schools

"We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust." (Brené Brown, Dare to Lead)

“We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.”

Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

Trust and vulnerability are two essential elements for a productive and effective learning environment. In schools, teachers, coaches, and administrators must establish trust with their students and colleagues to achieve academic success. Trust is a crucial element in creating a positive and safe learning environment. It can be defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. When teachers trust their students, they provide them with the freedom to take risks and make mistakes without fear of judgment. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. When teachers are vulnerable with their students, they create a connection that can lead to more profound learning experiences.

Why Teachers Must Trust Students and Be Vulnerable

Establishing trust with students is critical in creating a positive and safe learning environment. When teachers trust their students, they provide them with the freedom to take risks and make mistakes without fear of judgment. Students who feel trusted are more likely to take academic risks, which can lead to deeper learning experiences. Trust also allows students to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, which can help teachers better understand their students’ needs and respond accordingly.

A student who trusts their teacher is optimistic that the teacher will act in a certain way even though the student does not know whether the teacher will do so. If the student knew that this would occur, no trust would be necessary. The intriguing thing about trust is that it makes us rely on other people without knowing whether this reliance is warranted. We often find ourselves in situations in which trust is needed. This is also true for students at school. In many cases, students do not know whether what the teacher teaches is worth knowing. They simply trust that the teacher will select relevant content and appropriate learning methods for their lessons. Also, when it comes to testing their intellectual competences what they have learnt in class, students trust that the teacher will provide them with helpful and encouraging feedback, that the teacher will not make fun of their errors and that the teacher will recognise the effort and progress that the students have made.

Monika Platz, Trust Between Teacher and Student in Academic Education at School

Additionally, teachers who are vulnerable with their students create a connection that can lead to more profound learning experiences. By sharing their own experiences and struggles, teachers can help students understand that it is okay to make mistakes and that learning is a process.

Your students need to see you struggle. They need to know that it’s ok not to know everything. When I’m visiting classrooms, the number one idea I try to convey to students is that it’s perfectly fine not to get “it” right on the first try. There is a benefit to the productive struggle.

This can help students develop a growth mindset, where they believe that they can improve their abilities through hard work and dedication.

The Significance of Teachers Trusting Other Teachers

Trusting other teachers is crucial in building a strong professional community. In a school setting, teachers should be able to rely on each other for support, brainstorming, and collaboration. When teachers trust each other, they are more likely to share ideas and resources, and they can provide each other with constructive feedback. This collaboration can lead to improved teaching practices, increased student engagement, and, ultimately, better academic outcomes.

When teachers trust other teachers, they are more likely to seek out feedback and support. When the #observeme movement began, it was all about teachers being open and vulnerable with each other. It wasn’t some teachers believing that they had it all together and were experts.

They genuinely wanted feedback from their peers. You can’t get better professional learning than this. Peer-to-peer feedback is a huge boost to your teaching practice.

Whether teachers are working on instruction, developing curriculum, or discussing students, they value the opportunity to collaborate. In our school, the literacy coach held periodic workshops with teachers from all departments. These volunteer workshops focused on different techniques and were always full. Teachers saw the workshops as an opportunity to work with colleagues from other departments and to learn new strategies and protocols. In an atmosphere of trust, they were willing to take the risks that new learning requires. Once teachers experienced the value of this kind of collaboration, they began to use the new strategies in their own classrooms with their students.

Jane Modoono, The Trust Factor

Vulnerability can lead to a culture of continuous improvement, where teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice. This can lead to better academic outcomes for students, as teachers constantly seek to improve their teaching practices.

The Importance of Coaches and Administrators Trusting Teachers and Being Vulnerable

Coaches and administrators play a vital role in creating a culture of trust and vulnerability within a school. When coaches and administrators trust their teachers, they give them the autonomy to make decisions that benefit their students. This can lead to a sense of empowerment among teachers, which can lead to better academic outcomes for students.

Additionally, when coaches and administrators are vulnerable with their teachers, they create a space where teachers can share their thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussions. I am the first person to admit I don’t have all my ish together at times. Especially when trying something new. I’m learning right alongside the teachers and students I work with most of the time. Communicating your own faults opens so many doors with others.

This communication can lead to improved teaching practices, increased teacher satisfaction, and, ultimately, better academic outcomes. When coaches and administrators are vulnerable, they demonstrate that it is okay to make mistakes and that learning is a process. This can lead to a culture of continuous improvement, where teachers are constantly seeking to improve their teaching practices.


In conclusion, trust and vulnerability are essential components of a productive and effective learning environment. Teachers must establish trust with their students and be vulnerable to create a safe and positive learning environment. Trusting other teachers is critical in building a strong professional community, while coaches and administrators must trust teachers and be vulnerable to create a culture of open communication and collaboration. By prioritizing trust and vulnerability in schools, we can create an environment where everyone can learn and grow together.

As educators, it is our responsibility to create a culture of trust and vulnerability in our schools. By doing so, we can create an environment where students feel safe to take academic risks, and teachers feel empowered to improve their teaching practices. When prioritizing trust and vulnerability, we can create an environment where everyone can learn and grow together.

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Pike Mall Tech: 17 May 2022

Today’s Links

The Trials of Academic Publishing (Permalink)

academic publishing
Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

First things first: I appreciate the need for peer review and understand why we have academic journals. I’m not the person you need to convince that any work any scientist or academic publishes needs to be scrutinized with as many eyeballs as possible.

My issues lie in how that work is disseminated to large audiences to be put into action and influence the world.

Thanks to the way most academic publishing works, it’s almost impossible for anyone other than another academic to read your work if it’s published.

It’s hard to overstate what a scam academic and scientific publishing is. It’s run by an oligopoly of wildly profitable companies that coerce academics into working for free for them, and then sell the product of their labors back to the academics’ employers (often public institutions) for eye-popping sums.

Cory Doctorow

As I begin my doctoral studies in the fall of 2022, I hope to have more experience with academic publishing myself. I mean, that’s part of the academic process.

Over the years, my articles, tweets, presentations, podcasts, etc., have been viewed or heard by multiple tens of thousands of people from all over the world. I’ve made that work freely available to others for a long time (thanks, Creative Commons) and seen many take advantage of what I’ve “published” in one form or another.

Sadly, any work I may produce and publish in the academic tradition may never see the light of day.

In K-12 education, we talk a lot about having students create work for an authentic audience; work that will be seen and critiqued by people outside of their school environment.

Shouldn’t we try and do the same with academic publications?

Teachers are Leaving, Here’s Why (Permalink)

teachers are leaving
Photo by Mitchell Ng Liang an on Unsplash

Universal truth: COVID-19 changed education forever. The pandemic affected every area of education. Weaknesses were exposed, kids were left unconnected for months, systems failed, administrators panicked, students felt abandoned, and teachers just had to do more and more every day.

As a result, teachers are leaving. And I mean leaving in a hurry.

A staggering 55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned

The Great Resignation has come to education just as it has many other fields in the past two years.

For months on end, teachers have been in survival mode, doing their best to meet the same expectations that were in place pre-pandemic and dance the world’s most epic dance from virtual to in-person learning (multiple times for some).

Students still had to take tests and meet all graduation requirements while learning how to talk with each other behind masks and appreciate short outdoor mask breaks a few times per day.

And the teachers had to keep going. They’ve had to deal with administrators who pressured them to try new things (some necessary and some not so much) and adopt more technology in less time than at any other point in educational history.

Three minutes. That’s all the time Lanee Higgins, a Baltimore County Public Schools teacher, had to herself during a typical day of coronavirus-era remote learning. On her computer screen were middle-schoolers, scattered across the county, running through their lessons — while at home, Higgins, age 29, was trying to maintain her authority over her classroom and her life. Sometimes her potty-training toddler, refusing to nap, would wander into the frame when her entrepreneur husband wasn’t there to corral him. When she just couldn’t hold on anymore, Higgins would announce a three-minute break. She’d leave her students staring at the screen while she scurried off to use the bathroom or steal some time to just think.

Teacher shortages were already a reality pre-pandemic but now the shortages are reaching critical numbers. Stress was listed as the primary reason why teachers left the field before the pandemic and the pandemic only made it worse.

The pre-pandemic teacher turnover rate was 16% but by January 2021 nearly one-quarter of teachers were thinking about leaving their jobs by the end of the school year.

And now, as we near the end of the 2021-2022 school year, over half of all teachers are thinking of leaving.

Teachers are tired. They’re tired of changing mandates from state and local officials. They’re tired of dealing with politicians who have little to no respect for the work teachers do every day. They’re tired of misinformed parents who accuse teachers of indoctrinating their students.

Trust me, we’re not indoctrinating any students. If we were, they’d be much better at following directions for turning in their work by now.

They’re tired of losing their jobs over reading children’s books that are widely available everywhere because their meaning was misconstrued and the teachers are labeled as perverts.

So, what do we do?

We figure out how to support teachers. While a pay increase would be welcome, it’s certainly not all about the money. Even when you understand that from 1999 to 2021, teacher salaries decreased in 27 states, thanks to inflation.

Some things administrators, parents, and communities can do to keep teachers include:

  • Having a supportive attitude
  • Be flexible with policies and curriculum
  • Help teachers prioritize their physical and mental health
  • Lighten the load (stop making teachers do dumb stuff, like enforcing dress codes)
  • Maybe most importantly, trust teachers

Personally, I don’t have any plans to leave education but I understand those teachers who are either seriously considering it or already have.

Somehow, we have to find ways to keep great teachers and encourage more people to join their ranks. Otherwise, education is in serious trouble.


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Cory Doctorow’s work at Pluralistic inspired the layout, focus, and work displayed here. Hat tip to Cory for all his fine work.

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