Keeping the flame A.L.I.V.E.

Rosemary Dewan

Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.

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The Olympics brought into sharp focus just what can be achieved when individuals are set alight so that they can blossom and realise their full potential - and the sense of wellbeing when the spirit of service flourishes.

So what qualities shone as the Olympic torch travelled the length and breadth of the country? What characteristics were identified during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony? Which elements of the Games themselves demonstrated what can be accomplished when people are fired up?

And what is it that we wish to keep alive?

...happiness, positive personal qualities and unifying community life?

During the run-up to and during the Olympic Games, many people enjoyed a heightened sense of happiness and a growing feeling of togetherness while taking part in and even just observing communities celebrating successes. People from all kinds of backgrounds from across the world came together for a festival of sport. The common interest dissolved usual walls of separation so that strangers talked to one another and volunteers, with radiant smiles, enriched the whole atmosphere with their friendly and helpful guidance.

Those who had worked so hard and had achieved so much to represent their countries paid fitting tributes to the immense support they had received, sometimes going back many, many years. A theme that became increasingly apparent was the huge difference that had been made by parents, who had lovingly sacrificed so much to enable their children to exercise their passions and succeed in developing their talents to a world-class standard. The athletes also acknowledged with deep gratitude, the teams behind their achievements – family members, friends, former teachers, their coaches and others whose skills, commitment and dedication were key contributory factors to ensuring the competitors were ready to perform at their peak.

So how do we keep this radiance alive?

Whoever we are, the Games highlighted the many benefits and the feel-good ripple effects that can arise when we look after ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, look after our relationships and connections with others and promote a culture of service to the community.

The athletes spoke about how they consciously decided to work towards positive outcomes and the resilience they learned to develop to achieve their aims. We too can raise our own awareness about the choices we make and understand the significance of the values we adopt. Values are the guiding principles that shape our lives, as individuals, in our communities and on the world stage. They underpin and affect so much of what we experience, how we think, how we feel and our behaviour. Some are uplifting and enriching, while at the other end of the scale, they are are harmful and generate fear.

In short, we need to be A L I V E:

  • Actively
  • Leading
  • Inspiring
  • Values
  • Education

Taking a values-based approach

Staff in schools that adopt an explicit values-based approach to the education they provide for their pupils express their delight at the rich dividends the philosophy delivers. They find that not only are their own teaching practices enhanced, but the sense of direction and the vision it provides for all the participants is conducive to improving children’s performances. Pupils’ relationships with their peers, all the adults in the school community, and those in their home environments, are transformed. They gain essential emotional and social skills that raise their self-esteem and aspirations.

With systematic values coaching and support from teachers and parents/carers, as the young people progress along their journeys of self discovery and development, they acquire attitudes, competencies and qualities that enable them to realise that they can take more responsibility for shaping their own futures and preparing the way for a positive transition into adulthood.

It may be surprising for some but from quite a tender age, with a curriculum that explicitly includes values education, many children begin to appreciate how the values they choose to live by empower them and give them the confidence and understanding to enable them to start making real and lasting differences to the kinds of societies, workplaces and environments they wish to grow up in and live in.

So perhaps, individually and collectively, we can help “keep the flame alive” by supporting one another and constantly striving to enrich and nourish the fabric of our society with uplifting influences and honourable conduct, as exemplified and thrown into the spotlight during the run-up to and throughout the summer of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

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