I predict that this post will be fairly self-evident.
Here’s my thesis:
Schools need core values.
Here are a few arguments in favor of core values…
1) Core values create shared language. Imagine student, parents, faculty, staff, and administration all having a shared language to describe the kind of learning community we both are and aspire to be. Core values are this shared language.
2) Core values clarify mission and purpose. Mission statements often live on walls and websites. Core values live in hearts and minds. Mission statements tend to be descriptive or philosophical. Core values are prescriptive and pragmatic– they tell us what we are trying to accomplish in a jargon free way.
3) Core values promote mindfulness. As we navigate the many competing claims on our time– whether in the classroom or the office, core values helps us establish our priorities and remain aware of our primary aspirations and responsibilities.
4) Core values are a great reading strategy. It is possible to read any story book, view any television show, listen to any song, or read any situation in terms of core values. When we model this for our students we ensure that they are able to view life through the lens of core values.
Does your school have core values? If so, how are the relevant in the daily life of various stakeholders? How do they impact school culture? How do they affect the way that your school is perceived in the wider community?
The Davis Academy has five core values.
They are: Kavod (honor), Ruach (spirit/spirituality), Tzedek (righteousness), Kehillah (community), and Chochmah (wisdom).
During the previous school year we undertook an extensive deliberative process to re-articulate our core values, growing from three core values to the five listed above. Already our new core values have had cultural and programmatic impact. They provided a framework for our staff week, will be the subject of parent education classes, will be incorporated into lesson plans for students, used to help frame discipline, and much more.
Having core values that live only on a wall or a website might actually be worse than having no core values at all. If that’s the case at your school consider raising the topic with the relevant members of the administration. Make an impassioned case for living core values at your school. Period.