Students at Fairgreen International School tending their vertical, aquaponic garden. (Photo source: Fairgreen International School)
Throughout the universe, there are systems that are seemingly random, even chaotic, which, upon close examination, demonstrate a clear order comprising complex repetitive patterns, whether regular or irregular. From spiral galaxies and nautilus shells to sunflowers and even the human lungs, the patterns of chaos are all around us.
Take, for example, a fern. The overall image and pattern of the fern is replicated by the smaller parts. If you break off a small section of the fern, the pattern is the same as the whole frond. Ferns are one of the perfect examples of fractal geometry in nature. Fractal geometry is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of self-similar objects or shapes that exhibit complex patterns or irregularities at different scales of magnification. In other words, a fractal is a geometric shape or object that looks similar or identical, no matter how much you zoom in or out.
Cohesive school communities reflect this phenomenon, whether you observe the community as a whole, or “zoom in” and talk to individual stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, or staff. This intangible “community feel,” that forms the intrinsic culture of a school, stems from a unanimous set of values, or pillars. These values unite a school community, serve as a “road map” for defining its beliefs, and inform decision-making processes, both at organizational and individual levels. Only if we know what we value, can we make the right decisions. Each representative of our school community must model the values of the whole organization in a consistent and professional manner. Values-based decision-making is an integral part of the success of any organization, and promotes a positive, thriving school culture that is aligned with a shared belief system.
Values are, therefore, an essential aspect of decision-making because they provide a framework for evaluating options and determining which course of action aligns best with our beliefs and principles. Within a school context, these values are often represented by our school mission and vision, or through a variety of other common values-based statements.
To give a concrete example of this, Fairgreen International School is situated within the Sustainable City in Dubai. We have a growing and well-deserved reputation as a sustainable school within the highly competitive Dubai school market. Prospective parents and visitors will often comment on the reputation we have within the city for our focus on weaving a sustainable focus into our actions, whether our curriculum, events, or celebrations. However, we are keen to point out that sustainability is only one of seven key pillars for our school, and that each is interconnected and prioritized at different times throughout the school year. For example, at the start of the academic year we may focus more on character development and wellbeing to ensure our community feels valued, confident, and comfortable about the year ahead. Innovation and academic growth and achievement can often be interwoven with many of the other key pillars in addressing the needs of our community. Sustainability will always be a focus of the school, but it won’t ever be the only focus. Each of the pillars guides our decision-making process and priorities, but never in isolation or at the expense of another.
Fairgreen International School students and Director Edward Pearce during robotics class. (Photo source: Fairgreen International School)
Where defining and articulating our values as a school community is important, ensuring that all members of a community agree upon and share the same values is a complex and challenging task. Overall, building a shared sense of values in a community requires ongoing effort, commitment, and active participation from all members. It requires creating an environment that promotes openness, dialogue, and a willingness to understand and respect each other's perspectives.
One approach is to promote open and honest communication within the community. By encouraging dialogue and discussion, community members can explore their beliefs and values and develop a shared understanding of what is essential to them. This can help identify common values and areas of agreement, as well as clarify and resolve differences in opinion.
Another approach is to provide opportunities for community members to engage in shared experiences, such as volunteering or participating in community events. These experiences can help to foster a sense of community and shared purpose which can, in turn, contribute to a shared understanding of values. Education and training programs that focus on values and ethical principles can also help foster school values. These programs can provide a platform for community members to learn about different values and their importance, and how to apply them in daily life.
Overall, our values serve as guiding principles that influence how we perceive the world and what we prioritize in life. When making decisions, our values help us to weigh the consequences of our choices and ensure that we act in a way that aligns with our beliefs. Without a clear understanding of our values, decision-making can become arbitrary and inconsistent. By grounding our decisions in our values, we can ensure that our choices are thoughtful, purposeful, and aligned with our vision for our lives. Ultimately, values help us to make decisions that are not only effective but also meaningful and fulfilling.
Edward Pearce is the Director of Fairgreen International School.
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