So Many Core Values and Beliefs: One Unified School Vision

Anna Warren

New Year Image

Back in September, I wrote about the importance of school leaders reflecting upon their own core values and beliefs, as an important first step in leading a school.  Why? Because we don't leave our experiences, our philosophies, or our personalities at home when we put on our school leader hats. 

Teachers don't either. School staffs are made up of many types of educators. That's mostly a good thing for us as leaders, because we can pool all their strengths and skills together to help us do our jobs of educating students, right? Right, and along with all those strengths and skills, teachers also bring their own unique set of core values and beliefs. 

Core values and beliefs, multiplied by  the number of staff members in a school = many philosophies about teaching and learning!

How do you honor them all to create and live by a unified school vision? 

Here's an exercise to help you get started: 

1) Make time for your staff to reflect upon and write down their individual core values and beliefs. Try this exercise to get it done. 

2) In PLCs, or grade level/department teams, individuals share their values and beliefs with their teammates. Then, each team selects one value and one belief that their whole group can "get behind". 

3) The team writes down what they've agreed upon, like this:

 We believe __________ (belief) and we want to be __________ (core value). 

An example:  We believe in the importance of stakeholders and we value connectedness.

4) Next the team generates what they will be DOING to exemplify the belief and value:     

This is what we will be DOING: We will be __________ and __________.

In other words, what are actions that will be taking place to indicate that this is how we believe and want to be?

Example: If we believe in the importance of stakeholders and we value connectedness, then we will be doing these things: creating a non-threatening environment for all and involving all partners in decision making. 

5) Next, what will this look like? The team should now generate ideas about what people will see when they walk about the hallways,classrooms, and meeting rooms of the school.

People will SEE: __________ and __________.

In this example, one might see: parents freely contributing ideas on committees, and grade levels regularly collaborating. 

6) Finally, the team should talk about results, or what their beliefs and values in action will create

As a result, we will CREATE:__________.

Here, the blanks might be filled with "increased evidence of community support" or "increasingly positive school morale survey results".

Using our example, here's the team's complete statement: 

We believe in the value of stakeholders and we value connectedness. We will create a non-threatening environment and involve all partners in decision making. At our school, visitors will see parents freely contributing ideas and grade levels regularly collaborating, with the result being increased community support and school morale. 

The next step is to bring the entire staff together to share each team's agreed upon statements. Now you are working with a much more manageable number of beliefs and core values and everyone has had input. There's lots more discussion to be had, but with these statements, you can begin to see similarities and differences. And you have a good starting point to begin to build the school's vision and mission.


Thanks to the kind folks at the Texas Center for District and School Support  for sharing this protocol with the AEL team. Are you interested in more tools like this one to make life easier as a school leader? Consider participating in an upcoming Advancing Educational Leadership training in your Region! Contact us for more information.


Monday, February 1, 2016