Saturday, May 31, 2014

8 Steps to Add Value to your School

Values are defined as ideals and customs of an organization toward which the members have an affective regard. They are long standing traditions that are passed down from generation to generation, and they are shaped little by little through the decisions and actions of influential individuals. If we pause to analyze the complete definition of the word beyond its societal meaning, a value is defined as the relative worth, merit or importance of something.

The problem is not that schools lack values. The problem is that values in a school are all over the place. To get everyone on the same page, leaders make the fatal mistake by dictating what every staff member’s values must be to work at the school. When leaders take this approach, schools fail to capitalize on the abundance of values that already exist within the organization. By using the collaborative process to align values throughout the building, staff members can align individual values which can congeal into campus values that would by far supersede any expectation written by the best campus principal.

Campus values are commitments that staff members make to ensure that every student reaches academic success daily. They reflect the behaviors that all staff members must exhibit instructionally as well as systemically. Values are specific details that help flesh out the mission and vision. They help teams clarify how they will work together.

How you behave is based on what you value. Throughout the year at every campus in the world, problems arise that either conflict with campus values or haven't been addressed in the value statements. As teams dig deeper into the source of the problems, teams will find that sometimes the pressures of the day dictate how they solve problems rather than pulling back and looking at the MVVG (Mission, Vision, Values and Goals) for guidance. When leaders allow the pressure of the day to guide them to a solution, campuses stand a chance of getting off of the path of actualizing their moral imperative, and sometimes it causes teams to go backwards and never reach their goals. When personal emotions guide teams in resolving problems, rather than commitment to campus values, the team will develop fractures in its culture that will take much time to heal. If the problem becomes extremely personal, the culture can be broken, and once the culture is broken, the campus can no longer focus on kids.

8 Steps

Last August, my former campus took a closer look at the campus values which were written 3 years ago and truly exemplify what the campus must exhibit in actions and words. Rather than reviewing them and moving on, I asked the staff to do the following activity. 

1.  In groups, take one value and analyze it. 
2.  In your own words, write the definition of the value.
3.  Individually write what the value looks like if someone could see the value in action but could not hear it. 
4.  Individually write what the value sounds like if someone could hear the value in action but could not see it. 
5.  Write down behaviors that do not represent the value. In other words, tell us what the value is not. 
6. Once individuals have completed writing their thoughts, they need to have a discussion about which descriptors best define the value. 
7. Using the frayer model (See Picture Below), write down what the value looks like, sounds like, what it is, and what it is not. 
8. The group shares its thoughts with the campus and asks for feedback. 

Once everyone has shared their thoughts with the campus, the value frayer models are turned into posters and posted throughout the school and shared with the community. An activity like this helps returning members deepen their understanding and hopefully commitment to values, and it gives new members an opportunity to contribute their ideas to make the values more meaningful. 

Values are nothing but words on a wall, but when campuses take time to review, reflect and revamp them, there is a strong chance that they will use them to align actions which in turn adds value to the organization. 

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