Throughout their lives, humans develop, revise, and refine their values. Schools can play an important role in helping students develop a clear and coherent moral system that will serve them well throughout life. Different schools express their values in different ways and through different frameworks, but it is important to recognize that even schools that do not expressly state their values will still impart values to their students, if only through educators’ actions and school policies.Young children view the world through a lens of “right and wrong” and are quick to sense unfairness or hypocrisy in how teachers manage their classmates and treat others in the community.
When considering a school, you will want to ascertain whether it has a clear statement of values that matches what you want for your child. You should also consider how seriously the school takes this values statement: does it say one thing for students but hold staff to a different set of rules, or does the whole school community commit in good faith to uphold a set of norms and expectations?
Schools with an effective ethical code infuse their values into everything they do. Young children view the world through a lens of “right and wrong” and are quick to sense unfairness or hypocrisy in how teachers manage their classmates and treat others in the community. Class discussions and activities often include moral lessons: Why did this character make the decision she did? How did it impact others? Would you make the same decision, or would you make a different one, and why? When educators and schools model a clear ethical code, students learn meaningful lessons about the importance of personal, community, and civic values.
- Do you have a school statement of values? Where can I find it? Are these values obvious on the campus and in the classrooms?
- Are they visible somewhere? How does everyone know what these values are?
- How are young children taught these values? Can you give some examples of how these lessons are incorporated in the daily routines of the early learning program?
- Make sure your kids know your values by sharing them in relaxed conversation. Consider having a family dinner discussion about “What we consider important.” Remember to ask the younger family members what they think is important too!
- When things happen that don’t agree with your values, talk them through with your children. For instance, if you see kids behaving unkindly at a park, you might say, “Do you think what they were doing was nice to the other kids? What do you think you could have done to help make things better?” Then encourage them to act on these ideas the next time something similar happens.
- Model your values daily, and when you make a mistake, as we all do now and then, let them see you apologize and take action to set things right.