REVIEW: Toby A. Travis — TrustED (BOOK)
Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.’s new book is titled TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement, and as its title would suggest (even encapsulate) the book is about just that. Trust. The kind of word that has been seriously lacking across a wide political, social, and hierarchal set of spectrums. The kind of word that is pivotal to any relationship, but particularly one that has wide-ranging, long-term, and exponentially crucial impact. There has never been a more contentious topic in typical American discourse than the institution of education. Indeed, education policy remains one of the fundamental divides between political parties, communities, and policy decision making on either sides of the proverbial and ideological aisles.
ABOUT THE PROJECT: https://trustedschool.org/about/
Travis has his opinions, and isn’t shy about hiding them. But the book doesn’t address the more alienating aspects of the school-community educational relationship. It’s about healing the hypothetical rifts that can occur when there isn’t a stable, healthy, succinct communication between leaders in the education pyramid, and the communities with which they have been appointed to represent and boost. Trust is one of the crucial elements that can make or break an academic leader’s impact, Travis writes. It’s not just a process or set of steps to follow, but an overall mindset. “School leaders provide the Bearings for the bridge to school improvement, decreasing stress, and controlling movement when they adapt their leadership to the needs of the school’s current situation.
They are flexible, readily able to adapt everything from school procedural practices to its organizational structure,” he writes. “For those who prefer constancy and avoid change, flexibility may not appear to be a healthy leadership practice. It is. All schools are far more successful when organizational structures are built around specific people’s talents and skills at any present time rather than forcing people into an antiquated system.”
This point is further reinforced in a passage Travis christens No Square Pegs in Round Holes. “Structures look very different from school to school based on those serving within various levels of leadership,” he says. “There is no such thing as a perfect organizational structure. Every successful structure is built around individual members of the organization and their unique, specific skill sets.” In other words, people need to put institutions first and policies second. It’s the kind of breath of fresh air many people need when reading about educational policy. It’s the sort of wakeup call that reminds us educational issues are fundamentally human issues, requiring people to come together regardless of partisan or social biases.
The way Travis implements this point so effectively is that he never comes across as emotional, or removed in the way he describes the mentality. He walks a fine line between a personable, literary delivery and intentionally avoids any potentially inflammatory arguments. Because the focus never deviates from the immediacy of Travis’s points, one comes away from the read with a succinct and fully fleshed philosophy drilled into their head. There’s no room for distraction with respect to political points or pointing the proverbial finger of blame. That’s to be seriously commended…