It might sound fluffy, but defining our core values has really helped us focus on the important stuff at our teaching school. Starting with asking ourselves ‘why’ has been part of the on-going mission to make the Alliance for Learning (the TSA I lead) as relevant and connected as possible.
It is a great exercise to go through and has made my team reflect on a few key things such as:
- WHY the Teaching School exists
- WHY we do what we do
- HOW we should go about our work
- WHAT characteristics should make us successful
- WHAT we want our schools and Partners to think/say about us
- HOW we can communicate and share all of this
The result of the 12 month collaborative process is this:
An important aspect of our work leading up to this was really thinking through how we define our values and what our MOST IMPORTANT VALUE WAS.
What do we stand for above everything else? What is THE most important thing to us? If there was only one value we could live by, what would it be? For us this was INTEGRITY. We felt if we didn’t have this then we had nothing. When you know the value that’s the most important to you it is a good base for starting to define the others that you hold dear.
INTEGRITY for us is about trust, doing the right thing even if it is hard, being honest which isn’t always easy and it also reminds us to always practice what we preach, which helps us stay authentic. Integrity also helps us remain consistent and ensures we ‘have grace under fire’ even in the toughest of situations.
Remember — Values Don’t Happen Overnight.
I have been in post now as Director Teaching School for nearly three years and developing the ‘core values’ for the Alliance for Learning was something I wanted to do in my first year. But it took much longer as it required time, work, further time to reflect, time to collaborate, a review of all partnerships and work streams and a chance to really get to know our schools, their needs and re-frame/refresh our offer. Part of this process also involved a reorganisation of our membership structure in the TSA and a review of strategic partners and also admin functions in the TSA team.
In undertaking this process, something interesting happened-the process of defining our organisational values really made me reflect on my own personal values and moral purpose as a leader educator. I suppose this isn’t that surprising! As a leader of an organisation, it’s natural to both look to your own values to help you influence your workplace AND to want to work with organisations that are aligned with you. To do anything else would be failing to be true to you. It would be a compromise that would lead to a real dissatisfaction with yourself, your work and probably end up being really unhealthy.
On a personal note with my ‘wellbeing hat’ on now, I think it is really important to consider what are the things that matter to us ‘before work’. Is it spending time with your family? Or making the time to exercise every morning? Whatever it is, make it a non-negotiable and always put it ahead of your work. It might seem counter-intuitive, but protecting the things that are most important to us and giving them the time and attention they deserve helps us stay true to ourselves and actually to function well.
Alongside the TSA ‘Core Values’ process our brilliant MAT CEO also reviewed the trust values and introduced the overarching strap line “the best for everyone, the best from everyone” which I really like and this is part of who we are. Underpinning everything we do as a teaching school is the children and young people in the schools we serve and ‘going the extra mile’ to achieve this. Defining our core values has helped us embed some of our ‘none-negotiables’ too and has ensured we stay focussed on the right things. Too often as leaders we become very reactive and jobs are so busy we often spend less time on things like having coaching conversations and business and strategy development to ensure sustainability but our core values keep us more ‘tight’. We constantly reflect on the ‘impact’ of our work & make ongoing adjustments and tweaks.
Additionally whilst not one of the values listed above, one of my own is ‘courage’. A large part of leading a TSA is about being courageous. Courage doesn’t just mean embarking on a huge new project which could go wrong but rather could be anything from giving really difficult feedback to a school to securing an intimidating interview to pitch a proposal.
Finally, on any given day, there are an infinite number of distractions that can pull us away from what’s important. In those moments of distraction, we need something to keep us on track towards our goals. What’s the best thing to help us maintain that journey? Our core values. They act as our moral compass governing our decision making on every level.
We have to make our Core Values real now and embedded now so we have them on our website, in our newsletter, as part of our action plan and although it sounds a bit daft we have started to use them in daily conversations with everyone. If we act in a way not in keeping with our values we expect our partners/schools to give us that honest feedback and knowing our alliance schools so well I’m sure they will.
Positive already……this work has already had tremendous value for us in various ways. We have used our core values to think through which new projects to invest our time in, we have used them when recruiting for new posts and of course when recruiting our trainees for the SCITT. We have already started to ‘apply them’. We work with lots of new Teaching Schools to help them grow and develop and we always start with ‘why’. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Do take a look at our website www.allianceforlearning.co.uk
@AFLTeachingSch | @lisafathersAFL