The New Zealand Curriculum describes values as deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable. They are expressed through the ways in which people think and act.
This year I am facilitating a full review of our school values, a process that is recognised strategically by the Board, along with a review of our school vision, as a priority area. Why? Well here are a few of the reasons. Our desire is to have our school values;
- visible around the school
- articulated by learners, parents and staff
- actively modelled by learners, parents and staff
- used to frame up/underpin learning, expectations and behaviour
- provide a starting point in our decision making process.
There is currently little to no evidence of this taking place and this gap has guided our review and development in this area. To start this process we have based the conversations around a set of 3 core questions:
- What is important and desirable in our school?
- How should our students be thinking and acting?
- What is to be encouraged, modelled, explored?
Taking these 3 questions we have had meetings and conversations as a staff, with our parents, at our whānau hui, and what I believe is most important, with our learners. Outcomes from some of these meetings are shown below.
Students getting their ideas down on paper. Our parents prioritising and defining what is important to them.Thoughts from a staff member.
As you can probably imagine this led to a huge number and variety of concepts as the different groups documented what was really important to them. Through a process of grouping similarly themed ideas for each of the different groups and ordering them in terms of their popularity, then repeating that process after all the groups’ ideas were pooled together, a final list of 13 values were put on the table.
There was lots of rich discussion and questioning along the way, e.g.
- Is that a value or a skill?
- What does that mean to you as I think of it meaning something different?
- Isn’t that a concept that sits over the top of those values? Do we really need respect as a value?
- Is that just a non-negotiable anyway?
Going back to the NZC definition was our guiding light and kept us on track. Additionally perhaps the most important aspect of this process was to take a lot of time agreeing on a definition of each of the shortlisted values so that when we communicated these to the students, parents and community there was a clear statement by what was meant by that term. We hoped that this would clarify any misunderstandings.
Perhaps the most challenging part was how best to integrate the thoughts of our whānau into this process. They suggested that manaakitanga (caring, looking out for each other), whanaungatanga (treat everyone as your family) and kotahitanga (being as one, the same, treating everyone as the same) were the values that should guide everybody and everything at school. We have no disagreement with these and without question they will be included in the final make-up.
As we don’t yet know what our values framework will look like when it is ‘presented’ to our learners and community (e.g. represented through a visual form like a local landmark, tree etc, or as an acronym). When we offered the shortlisted values to the community we showed how manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga related to them, without yet knowing how these will be shown by the end of the review and development process.
So where to now? The voting process is drawing to a close so the votes will need to be counted. We are still discussing a number of questions including;
- If we believe that the students’ voice is crucially important, do their votes count more than others?
- Or, should it be just a straight vote and the what comes out on top are the ones that are selected?
- What is the best number of values to have? Is it a case of less is more?
Once decided, they next step is to develop a framework to ‘hang’ the values off. We are currently working with our local iwi Ngati Kauwhata to better understand the history and traditions associated with the local area. We are hoping that this will support us in developing a visual representation of the values.