Building stronger families and stronger communities: Trust

This is the 5th blog in a series based on the NCFL publication, Stronger Families, Stronger Communities.

Many educators believe that working together and engaging families results in students being more successful. However, it can be difficult to put this belief into practice. It takes work and effort. When past Toyota Family Teacher of the Year honorees were asked to share keys for engaging families, a frequent theme emerged: trust.

NCFL Education Solutions

Trust is built through conscious effort over time. It grows from knowing that teachers and program providers are sincere and passionate about what they are doing. It comes from believing that all families and their contributions are valued. Past Toyota Family Teachers of the Year shared guidance for building trust.


Educators and program personnel need to communicate. Families should know general information about policies and events but also specific information about their children. Gwen Paul of Arizona emphasized the importance of being open with parents. “I think there always has to be that open communication…whether the message is good or bad. They have to know we’re here for them because we are working with their children.” Honest communication builds trust.


Communication is more than sending home flyers, updating websites, and sharing grades. Jean Ciborowski Fahey of Massachusetts said, “The greatest lesson I learned from families is to listen to them.” Building trust requires that educators listen to families, as the experts on their own lives and the lives of their children. Gretchen Conway from North Carolina added, “I feel like I am a better person and educator by listening more to my parents and judging less.”  Further, as trust is being built, Carolyn Becker from California shared how she listens to what is not said. “Listen between the lines to what someone is really trying to tell you. The more you understand the situation, the more you can be helpful.” Listening to families builds trust.


Families need educators to share with them. Whether it is a dog’s name, a favorite team, or your motivation for helping others, little details can help families and educators find common ground.  Mark Faloni of Washington, DC shared how knowledge can be comforting. “Having been here so long lends itself to trust and rapport that I can build with new students, who find out that I have been doing this for all these years. This experience is comforting to them and they learn to trust that I have their best interests at heart.”

Building trust is a critical part of engaging families. From teacher to teacher, make sure that families know they are valued, and that their contribution is welcomed.  By building trust, educators can build relationships, community, and nurture learning.

What techniques do you use to build trust with families?