Does Your School Trust Its Students? Do You?

Companies work hard articulating their values. For example, take a look at a short excerpt from Johnson & Johnson’s Credo.

  • Everyone must be considered as an individual.
  • We must respect their dignity and recognize their merit.

Thinking about and articulating values aren’t limited to big companies. A couple of years ago, one of my kids attended a school where the 8th grade students collaborated to create rules for their own behavior – values in action. The class worked hard together, and then voted on the rules the students would follow.

The rules the students created bear a passing resemblance to those quoted from J&J’s Credo – a document developed in an exercise that I would imagine took J&J many committee meetings and people hours to formulate. Here are the rules from the students as I recall them from parents’ night: ·

  • Be inclusive, share and work together
  • Talk things out
  • Don’t pull other people into your fights
  • Don’t get stressed out if an assignment is too hard
  • Always encourage fellow classmates
  • Include everyone all the time
  • Respect everything and everyone: classmates, teachers, and their belongings
  • Work hard to do your best.

I have to hand it to the school administrators. They believed in their students. They trusted that their students would create great rules for themselves. They also trusted that their students would both follow those rules, and impress upon each other the value of obeying or living by the rules.

And it worked! Designing rules collaboratively enabled both buy-in and self-enforcement. When these kids finished eighth grade they had a great start collaborating on, creating, and living values. I look forward to seeing how they bring their collaborative skills and values into the working world in a few years.

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