Crafting Our Values
By Dr. Klondike Steadman
About a year ago, I realized the importance of creating a set of values that expresses what Orpheus Academy stands for. At first, my intention was to simply create these values to guide new teachers through their mentorship and training. Since the Orpheus approach to teaching is unique, I wanted to give new teachers strong guideposts that they could apply from their first day forward. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that these values could be beneficial for every member of our community, not just our teachers.
A set of defined values would help our students understand how to engage with their education with increasing independence, it would help our administrative staff deliver value to families with more meaning, and it would help parents understand our thought process and how to assist their children’s experience in positive ways.
As usual when I get excited about a project, I didn’t realize just how difficult this was going to be. The task of accurately representing all of our students, teachers, families, and staff, and what they each consider to be our community's collective purpose, ended up being complex.
To help guide this process I did some research, and pulled a lot from the book Traction by the entrepreneur Gino Wickman. For me, the most important takeaway from this was that creating a set of values should be collaborative, and that the values should describe who we are at the current moment as well as who we want to become.
I then set up a values committee to periodically meet and discuss our shared and unique experiences, including working with students, learning music ourselves, being parents, collaborating with each other as teachers, our approaches to developing curriculum and lesson plans, the latest research on practice and childhood development, and much, much, more! At the core of each of these discussions were two questions: Why were each of these experiences important? And how did they create an impact?
About halfway through this process, we went into lockdown and had to transition to teaching completely online. Our values discussions had to take a back seat for the time being, as we adapted our systems and helped our students transition smoothly to online learning. But eventually we knew it was time to return to the difficult and important work of discovering our values. After all, a unified vision for our community is more important now than ever.
Once we started boiling our ideas down to their key elements, we spent months synthesizing, discussing, going back to the drawing board, synthesizing again, and finally writing (and re-writing), with many feedback sessions in between. The whole process took much longer than expected, but the experience helped us understand ourselves, our students, and our community better than ever. In the end it was worth the extra time thinking, discussing, and collaborating with members of our community to ensure their thoughts and ideas were heard and incorporated.
So (drumroll please), I hope the following values truly embody what we are all striving to achieve here together: