Living My Values Out Loud

August 1, 2023

Have had a great time over the last few weeks working with an exercise from my book, Stretching Your Learning Edges: Growing (Up) at Work. Many have done this type of work before – working with a Values Exercise. I do the exercises with the attendees and this time was no exception. And again, it caused me to ask myself: am I living my values out loud?

One of my values is Justice. To act or treat justly or fairly. Do I live this value out loud in my work? The vice principals I was working with would be able to ask this question and answer it daily as they deal with disciplinary actions such as suspensions and expulsions. They could live up to the values of justice for all through their support of all students receiving a guaranteed and viable curriculum no matter which teacher with whom the student was learning. How am I living out justice in my consulting work? In my writing, my workshops, my coaching? The question sits with me daily. And one day I was given a lesson in inspiration and commitment to justice by a colleague in Arkansas.

I had the opportunity to find myself in front of Little Rock Central High School while taking a day to rest before work in the state. The school was where the courageous Little Rock Nine went to high school in 1957. In the heat and humidity, I took pictures of the imposing exterior. For those nine students in 1957, the steps going up to the front door of the school must have been so daunting.

This experience was in late July, and also on a Monday, so the National Park Service site was closed and the school was not in session. A woman and her daughter were there too.

“Impressive, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is!”
“I teach in this state.”
“What will you be teaching?”
“American Literature.”
“Boy, do I have questions for YOU!”

For those not following the changes in Arkansas education, Arkansas’s governor has signed into law the LEARNS Act. While at this moment of the writing of this newsletter the Act is on hold, this act has an executive order with regards to Critical Race Theory, which requires the Department of Education to review policies and materials that “promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as Critical Race Theory.” And while the state goes through its process to determine whether this Act will go ahead, many (including myself) are questioning what ‘ideologies’ will not be allowed to be taught and what that will mean for the students in the state.

This is where the value of Justice shows up in the story. The teacher I spoke to said to me that this is a hill on which she would die. She said she couldn’t not teach the truth even if she isn’t ‘supposed’ to discuss race in her classroom. She would be teaching Native American folk stories, the writings of Frederick Douglass, and the work of T’Nehisi Coates.

She knew she would be supported by her administration. She wasn’t going to gloss over the history of this country and if this choice was going to teach an ‘ideology’ of truth wasn’t approved by the state, it was something she was okay with going against. I left her with a hearty thank you, and an appreciation for her taking time to talk, and a cheer for her to living her values.

I left beyond inspired, much encouraged, and hopeful for the future. This is but one state determining what we can and cannot teach in our classrooms and just one test of our convictions in a line of so many at these times. And we need to fight for truth in our teaching and fair and equal treatment for all in our schools.

In my consulting work, which I do independently of any organization, I am not living day in and a day out with an obligation to follow policies of a school board. AND yet there are my own commitments and responsibilities to others that I need to abide by, follow, and live up to. My Jewish faith calls to me to make the world a more just and righteous place. To live in a just way I need to ask myself:

  • With my power and privilege what and who I am not recognizing?
  • Where and how am I participating in unjust actions?
  • What do I do or say that is unfair or unjust?
  • Where, if I am honest, am I hypocritical in my actions and words around justice and fairness?
  • Who do I have in my life who will call me in to be a better self?
  • Which voices or perspectives do I diminish, devalue, or ignore in my work?
  • How do I create an environment in my workshops which is conducive psychological safety and to open dialogue around issues of social justice?
  • When and where and how do I need to stand up and speak up when I see injustice?

By living my values, I could lose a client, and probably have. Justice is one of ‘my top 5’ and worth it every time.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

Teaching Better Day by Day: A Planner to Support Your Instruction, Well-Being, and Professional Learning by Jim Burke. “Renowned educator Jim Burke discovered that teaching at the top of your game requires low-tech, low-profile moments for picking up a pen, reflecting, and looking ahead. Maybe that’s why every page of this remarkable planner feels handcrafted with Jim’s wisdom on managing your time, your classes, and your life. You’ll find professional development ideas to nudge you toward new practices as well as the tried and true― with yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planning pages for setting your own personal and professional goals.” “gotLearning stands for Growth Over Time Learning. We are an education company that has built the first Collaborative Learning System (CLS). The CLS was born in the classroom out of necessity. Our founder needed a platform that not only captured student work but allowed for the teacher and student to communicate about it. He already had the tools to do this but needed them in one place. From there, he expanded gotLearning to involve other teachers, educational specialists, and school administrators to play instructional roles in each of the student’s learning journeys. See how gotLearning works video.”

Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power and Thrive by Kristin Neff. “Kristin Neff changed how we talk about self-care with her enormously popular first book, Self-Compassion. Now, 10 years and many studies later, she expands her body of work to explore a brand-new take on self-compassion. Although kindness and self-acceptance allow us to be with ourselves as we are, in all our glorious imperfection, the desire to alleviate suffering at the heart of this mindset isn’t always gentle, sometimes it’s fierce. We must also act courageously in order to protect ourselves from harm and injustice, say no to others so we can meet our own needs, and motivate necessary change in ourselves and society.”