Honesty, politeness, co-operation, consideration, empathy, integrity, compassion, doing ‘what is right’.

In a classroom, you need compliance: with thirty plus children you can’t have a free-for-all. It’s (sometimes) possible to force children into behaving well, through punishments. But what we really want is co-operation. We want the children to choose to behave because it is the good thing to do. We want them to learn the right values.

When we insist children comply, they stay quiet. Rebels simmer resentfully, bubbling up every now and again. The creative spark is dimmed. There is focused activity, but at a cost. If we can support children to behave of their own volition they, and the teacher, are freed up to work together. The relationship is based on trust and compassion and joint exploration. Creativity flourishes, risk happens. We help them to learn the right values.

Systems encourage compliance, especially when backed up with a ‘win or lose’ mentality. Do this: or else. Compliance is the enemy of risk, and compassion, and creativity. It makes our values slip and slide. We start to do what we are told because we must, not because we would. We have a choice when faced with a system that threatens our values. It’s a stark one: comply or rebel. In the end, the only way we can decide is to ask ourselves what we believe the right values are.

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5 Responses to Values

  1. This seems to miss the ethical issue. It might be authoritarian to control what children do with punishments and rules, but it is downright totalitarian to seek to control how they feel, what they believe and what they want. At least subject to even the strictest rules and punishments children still have control over our own thoughts. You seem to want to deny them even that.


  2. suecowley says:

    I was talking about league tables, early exam entry and PRP. The classroom bit was just a metaphor. 🙂


  3. bt0558 says:

    Thanks for a short but fascinating post. Looking at the reply to OA, I am not sure if my questions are appropriate but I will ask.

    Is the list of values at the top a summary of the values that would be expected of a teacher and therefore the same as the values teachers would expect to be held by their students?

    If yes (or I guess even if no), who would set establish such a list and are you suggesting that:

    1 Employers should treat staff as they wish students to also be treated


    2 If Employers treat teachers badly then it is only natural that teachers will rebel according to human nature


    3 Teachers shoudl treat kids as they would wish to be treated


    4 If one adopts an OA approach to discpline and teaching then they should not complain when they are treated similarly.

    5 Another angle

    Not looking for a thesis, just thinking about the idea and am looking for some scaffolding. I think you have something here but I am not sure what. If I have missed the point completely, just humour me.


  4. suecowley says:

    I was probably being a bit obtuse, but I’ve been thinking all week about the early exam entry issue, and trying to work out how I feel about the reaction of schools. I’m trying to understand whether my instinctive reaction is fair – that if we truly only ever did the best for our students, then if early entry was ‘right’ for them previously, it should remain right for them now regardless of league tables. Of course that denies the complexity of a head teacher’s role, but then again perhaps it shouldn’t? This is what I’ve been struggling with, and so I tried to think it through in terms of the metaphor of my ‘take’ on the classroom.

    If we hope to teach our children all or any of the values that I listed at the start, then surely we (and gov’t) must model them in turn? And if the system demands compliance, at the cost of any of those values, then it is both the system that is at fault but also us, if we refuse to stand up for what we believe.

    I hope that clarifies what I was trying to say. I’m not saying there is a ‘right’ answer or necessarily a ‘right’ set of values, just that we need to acknowledge what our own values are and then stand or fall by what we believe.


  5. Pingback: An Impossible Choice | Freeing the Angel

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