Educators: Making values work

Parents are sometimes concerned when a school mentions teaching values. The first thing a school needs to do is to clarify that the values to be addressed are “universal” ones—values that transcend all cultures and religions, such as: caring, cooperation, honesty and moral courage.

At a minimum, a values education program should focus on two core values—respect and responsibility. Most other values fall under these. Other keys to a program’s success include:

  • Commitment to the program by the school principal and counselors. Teachers won’t get on board if these leaders aren’t in partnership.
  • A nomination process. Students, staff and parent volunteers can nominate individuals who have demonstrated one or more positive values. The nomination form can be simple, with the name of the person, value demonstrated, and a sentence on what they did. (Value: Caring. Deed: “Helped a friend go to the nurse’s office when they got hurt.”)
  • Recognition of students, teachers and parents who demonstrated a positive value—with certificates, names in newsletters and names on a special, very visible school wall.
  • Integration of the values into the curriculum. For example, select one value each month and use it as a theme for reading, writing, art and drama activities.
  • Take-home activities. For example, students can take home articles about children facing ethical situations. Include questions geared toward starting a family discussion.

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