Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Systematizing our Values

Over the weekend I was privileged to attend the Educon 2.1 conference in Philadelphia hosted by the Science Leadership Academy. SLA is into its third year of operation as a join project of the Philadelphia Public School System and the Franklin Institute. A large part of the success of the SLA rests with their visionary leader and principal Chirs Lehmann. The Educon conference is hosted by educators for educators with no corporate sponsorships. It is a volunteer run conference with some heavy hitters in the progressive movement even chipping in to collect garbage and clean tables. If you can get away to one conference next year I highly recommend Educon 2.2 in beautiful Philadelphia.

Chris offered a session during Sunday about connecting values with systems that continues to leave my mind spinning. We are often pushed to espouse our values. Our mission statements invoke them we plaster them all over our schools on laminated colored cardboard but how do we know we live them? If we can’t point to systems in place that make these values a lived reality odds are we only pay them lip service.

This made me think about our own values in my high school. We list seven: faith, individual dignity as a gift from God, family, service to others, personal responsibility, teamwork, love of learning, and tradition. Yet there seems to be a few we only pay lips service to.

We value teamwork but we don’t seem to do too much of it in regards as all the various constituents working together. How many team settings do we have that involve administrators, teaches, students, and parents? I’d argue none unless you count attending an athletic event or some type of year end picnic. We have a school leadership team that blends teachers and administrators (more on this later) to solve common problems together but we rarely have invited students into the discussion. We seem to relegate their role to that of detainees to be managed instead of co-owners in the work we do.

In reflecting on this a few ideas come to mind: what about a student – faculty composed appeal board for disciplinary decisions? A student who truly perceives their offense and consequence as an outrage against fairness could appeal to a board of peers. The devil is always in the details but this would further develop our values of teamwork and responsibility.

I like this idea of identifying and creating systems that implement what we claim to value. Give the exercise a go in your own building and see what your analysis is.


Paul Bogush said...

Hi Charlie,
Brad Ovenell-Carter left a comment on my blog that really has me thinking about how I have been using the word "values." I actually just used it as a post today.

One of the presenters said that ultimately we our assessments should reflect our values. I wonder if they should reflect our "virtues" and be completed with skills and character traits that are "values."

Ed said...

Charlie, that session that Chris facilitated has had my head spinning as well. And I think as Catholic school admins, it really hits home.

I can't wait to present this idea to my fellow admins. Should be fun.

Souly Catholic said...

@ Paul
I've checked out the link to the virtues post and it looks very good.
@ Ed
We will be trying the exercise at our admin meeting end of the week. It should be fun.

Ed Shepherd said...

Interesting post. I heard someone just last week make mention to what your talking about in a similar fasion. His statement was as follows.

"Are we saying what we are doing, and then are we actually doing what we say we are doing?"

Really makes me stop and reflect on what is really going on in my school.