Stock illustration of skydiving kids with the word trust.

Recently Dave Schmittou, author of Bold Humility, sat down with me to record an episode for his Lasting Learning Podcast; he asked some thought-provoking questions.

Typically, I get asked about the company my husband and I founded, the books I have co-authored or the professional learning we deliver globally.

Rarely, do I get asked questions about “why” I do what I do and who has inspired me.

Over the past 25 years, I have been lucky to have many mentors that “had my back”. They gave me the feedback I craved to grow and make progress in my personal and professional life. They were there for me when I made mistakes and they were by my side cheering me on through so many mastery experiences. My mentors trusted me – and – I trusted them to be truthful and honest about my possible next steps. They believed in our collective mission to put students in the driver’s seat.

At the end of our interview we talked about my late mentor, Mimi Aronson, an educator and friend that made a positive impact in my life as well as the lives of so many teachers and students nationally.

Color portrait of Mimi Aronson.

Mimi and I met when I was a 3rd-grade teacher in San Diego, we became fast friends when she coached in my classroom. When I became an assistant principal, she coached the teachers in our building to strengthen writing instruction AND when I became a principal, she coached me on my school focus and brought her gifts to Berry Elementary.

When I launched my own business, she was there to give me advice in an effort to save me from the errors she made. She was one of my best friends and one of the wisest people I know. When we founded our publishing company, Mimi and Todd Press, we knew that Mimi had to be a part of our name.

The best advice Mimi gave me was to trust the students because without relational trust you simply can’t coach them.

If they don’t believe they “have your back” they won’t take the feedback to heart. She urged me and all educators to give students a voice and to believe in their aspirations. She would say over and over… “Trust the students.. they will always lead the way.”

Feedback has the power to accelerate student learning and close the gap – but relational trust is vital if we want feedback to flourish and actually make a difference. Trust is the superglue that sticks relationships together. Without trust, we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Without vulnerability, we may not be aware of our blind spots and we may not be so receptive to the feedback we need to grow.

What I do know is certain… and I have witnessed this first hand across the schools in our learning network.

When we give students and teachers a voice and allow them to lead their own learning and when we cultivate relationships grounded in empathy, openness, and relational trust, we are better positioned to leverage the feedback we need to thrive and grow!

Who is your mentor? How did they create conditions to strengthen relational trust? How did their coaching make an impact? Please share