Living the School Values – do you? (1)

Just as your personal values drive your beliefs and your behaviour, so your school or organisational values drive the behaviour of your staff, which in turn creates the culture you work in. Most schools will have values that are taught in the classroom, such as respect, kindness, perseverance. My question here is how do you role model your school values as adults — from classroom to staffroom to playground to lunch hall?

Leadership teams everywhere invest time to explore and articulate values, then publish them on their website and posters, and the job’s done. Well isn’t that more of an intellectual exercise than a way of being? It’s the way-of-being bit that interests me, how do you make the journey from agreeing values to everyone — actually — living the values out in practice?

This applies especially to leaders. How do you live the school values naturally, how do you actually role model them? Just because you agree with them doesn’t mean you consistently put them into practice. Take respect as an example, you don’t have to look far to see adults in schools not showing respect for one another — talking over others in meetings, not clearing things away in the staff room, blanking people in the corridor. So how do you behave in accordance with your values? What does showing respect actually look like?

Team activity for ensuring school values stick

  • In small groups of 3 – 4, take one value and describe the behaviours that reflect it — write one behaviour per post-it.
  • What would you look for to find this value in practice? What would you see that shows you-the-adults are living the value?
  • Create a post-it gallery with all the behaviours / post-its clustered under each VALUE heading.
  • Discuss what’s there and share your findings.

Repeat the process using different coloured post-its, this time asking the same groups to choose a different value and describe what it doesn’t look like – how you would not behave if you were demonstrating this value. For example, respect, in practice, doesn’t look like derogatory comments in the staff room or gossip. One behaviour per post-it.

  • Create a second post-it gallery of the behaviours that you don’t want adults to be demonstrating around your school.
  • Discuss what’s there and share your findings.

Guess what happens…

Yes, people start to recognise that they don’t live the values consistently, even though they believe in them. There’s no finger pointing or shaming, just the sobering reality that living out values goes way beyond the intellectual exercise of creating the values list and phrases. This level of awareness is exactly what’s required for each adult to realise the significance of their behaviour as role models.

[This activity is in 3 parts. To develop it further, see Part 2 Consequences.]

Image by Prawny from

self coaching

Self Coaching

  • Find routine examples of how you regularly demonstrate each of your school’s values with your staff.
  • And examples of when you haven’t.
  • Rate yourself from 1 – 5 (where 1 is low and 5 is high) on how consistently your behaviour is aligned with school values.
  • What will you do differently to increase your rating?
  • How will you know how you’re doing?
coaching others

Coaching others

  • Give examples of how you demonstrate the school values. What can people see that show you are living the values in your day to day school life?
  • How do you know? / How can you find out?
  • Which of your behaviours are not in line with school values?
  • How do you know? / How can you find out?
  • What aspects would you like to change so you are naturally living the school values?
  • What action will you take to change these?
  • What review process shall we agree to?
coaching upwards

Coaching upwards

  • Raise the topic of school values and how you each may be perceived in this context.
    For example, you may have courage as a value but patronise anyone who challenges you.
  • Explore opportunities for giving and receiving feedback on the behaviours that represent the values.
  • How important is it to invite feedback on living the school values?
  • How best to develop one another in this feedback process?
  • How can we make this feedback a routine?

Coacting Styles : Awareness & Adaptability

Different styles struggle with different aspects of living the school’s values, and their own.

Innovators – it’s not considerate to let others down.

Achievers –  it’s not respectful to routinely put your needs first.

Perfectors – it’s not motivating to feel scrutinised.

Harmonisers – it’s not caring to avoid conflict.

You can learn more about Coacting Styles here.