How to Promote School Values

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Core values are what support the vision, shape the culture and reflect what the school values.  They are the essence of the school’s identity by reflecting the community’s beliefs about what it considers to be the most important desirable qualities to guide everybody’s behaviour.  As with any organisation, schools with a culture of strong core values are likely to do better than those without a strong core value system.  By “strong” I mean to say that the values should be alive within the school culture – exemplified through the activities, attitudes and behaviours of all key members of the school community, including school leadership, teachers and students.  

School must create a “values-based” culture if they are to be successful at nurturing a happy community of students (and staff) who will make the most of their teaching & learning opportunities.  An interesting point made by Ron Berger, author of An Ethic of Excellence (2003, pp. 41), is that the power of the culture rests in community:

When I’ve visited effective schools I’ve been struck with the realisation that though the settings and resources are often widely different, every school I’ve seen has a strong sense of community…  Students and staff in all these settings feel they are part of something – they belong to something.  

In my school, for example, there are three core values –  and below, I provide several examples from my experiences in previous schools of ways in which such core values can be brought to life within any school setting.


 

Compassion

 

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In my previous school in El Salvador, I used the student council as a vehicle to promote school values. This senior student pictured here was just one of a dozen senior students who were instructed to read fables to children in lower primary and then discuss the moral message afterwards.

 

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Another project I initiated in El Salvador was a mentoring programme, which paired 8 senior students with younger peers in primary to mentor for a couple of hours each week.  The programme lasted for a full academic year.  By serving as positive role models, this was a rewarding experience for both mentors and mentees.

 

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In order to tackle behavioural problems that were taking place in the school playground, the school council was also directed to design various floor-based games including twister and hopscotch. In addition to purchasing a range of new playground toys such as skipping ropes, hula-hoops and balls, I ran a school council assembly to introduce the revamped school playground and outline behaviour expectations during break times.

 

Determination

 

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By providing challenging activities, which require creative problem solving on the part of students, determination is certainly a value that can be nurtured. The students pictured above were involved in a whole school science fair in which different groups of students were competing against one another to showcase their science experiment. On the final day, the senior leadership team went around the school as judges to evaluate the projects and present awards.

Another important point made by Ron Berger is that it is through students’ own work that their self-esteem will grow:

When they can begin to make discoveries that impress their classmates, solve problems as part of a group, put together projects that are admired by others, produce work of real quality, a new self-image as a proud student will emerge.

 

Integrity

In my early days of teaching in London, I organised a Young Enterprise initiative for students. Drawing on a pool of willing secondary school students to help facilitate the programme, this effectively gave all students involved a real world project in which to learn financial literacy through business education.  Real world projects, I believe, are a great way to teach values such as integrity.  By giving students an idea about how their actions can impact others in a real world context (global trade in this example), they can begin to see the application of values such as integrity in their daily lives.

Young Enterprise

 


 

Finally, it’s important that values are visible for the school community.  Again, this can be a great project for the school council to take on – creating displays of the school’s values for everyone in the community to see.

 

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Enlisting the help of our Art teacher, we had the school council paint the school’s values on the playground walls. It was not long before everyone in the community knew what the school values were because they saw them everyday!

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Every classroom also had the school values displayed on one of the walls in both English and Spanish.


 

 Concluding thoughts…

The whole community plays a critical role in bringing school values alive.  By embedding the school values into teaching and learning opportunities, bringing different sections of the school to work together and ensuring the values are made explicit through displays, a values-based culture can be created.  This can take a lot of time and energy to implement, but the benefits will be felt throughout the wider community for a long time to come.

 

Will Fastiggi
Originally from England, Will is an ICT coordinator now living in Brazil. He is passionate about making the most of technology to enrich the education of students.
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