Community and Trust-Building Work for Everyone

Ann Larson Ericson

by Ann Larson Ericson

For Middle Level

It’s very important to me to get to know my students—to build our relationships and to learn about their families, their interests, and their stories. But it wasn’t until I attended my first Developmental Designs training that I realized how important it is to build positive relationships with my adult colleagues too.

What a difference a strong, positive adult community can make for us and for our students!

Seven research-based principles are at the foundation of the Developmental Designs approach. The seventh principle states that “trust among adults is a fundamental necessity for academic and social success in a learning community.”

A great way to build trust in the adult community is through regular Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) gatherings. At my school, we begin every staff meeting with CPR. We take turns leading a greeting, a share, and a game before we begin the business of our meeting. This way, we all get new ideas to take back to our classroom CPRs as we build a strong, supportive adult community. Initially, we had some staff pushback about “wasting” our meeting time on things like sharing and games, but as our community grew stronger, the grumbling ended. Now we have full buy-in, and no one wants to miss a staff CPR. 

We learned that what works for our kids works for us too—the more we shared and laughed together, the more comfortable we became with one another. And we got better at collaborating and communicating. When issues arose between staff members, we were more comfortable having difficult conversations to resolve them, because we had built trust.

Students noticed our staff camaraderie when they saw us talking and laughing together in the hallways. And when I taught my class a game I’d learned from my colleagues, I shared with them something about the staff’s experience with the game. The students loved hearing about how the adults in the school played with and trusted one another.

I’ve learned much about my colleagues through our CPRs, but more importantly, we showed our students how we trust and care about each other, and how that trust and caring extends to them. They can feel our net of caring and concern around them, and that’s great for them.

Create a work environment for teachers that's happy, relaxed, and productive.

Ann Larson Ericson has been using the Developmental Designs approach in her classroom for more than nine years. As a Developmental Designs facilitator since 2011, Ann has helped educators implement the approach in their own classrooms. She is the 7–12 Instructional Coach at Community of Peace Academy, a public charter school on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. Before starting this new position, she taught high school chemistry and physical science at Community of Peace Academy. 

Posted August 2014

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