These are show notes taken from our podcast Episode #3: Our Core Values. Listen to the full audio podcast here.
Syd reflects on the importance of our core values, how they came to be, and how they resonate with us as individuals. She brings light to each of these core values as she explains how they are incorporated into our teaching.
I believe that values are fundamental things; people should know what their core values are. Any organisation, school, or business should know what their values are because every decision, everything that you do is based on those core values. So our core values are very much the fabric of UK Virtual School. We have four main values – growth mindset, curiosity, diversity and inclusion, and innovation. These four core values are a reflection of our student body and teachers.
Growth Mindset is the mindset of someone willing to be challenged. I am a big believer that everyone should have a growth mindset. At no point are you always going to be 100% in a growth mindset. There’s two main mindsets, I should say. There’s a fixed mindset and there’s a growth mindset. Mindsets fluctuate and they can change depending on the task or thing you are doing. It’s okay to have a fixed mindset at some point.
A fixed mindset is someone who will work towards a target or a grade; or the feeling that your intelligence is limited. Whereas with a growth mindset, you’re ready to be challenged. You feel like your mind is able to grow and learn more and there’s no barrier to those learnings. There’s a different way that we view things as a result of that mindset. It’s the mindset of someone who doesn’t limit themselves. As a school, we’re ready for a challenge; ready to accept that we don’t have all the answers. We can find answers, we can learn, we can make mistakes, and we can grow from that process.
Growth mindset is a mindset that gives room for students to make mistakes. What we want to try and do is to not make kids fearful of getting an answer wrong; to actually put up their hands and participate. They may not always get it right and that’s completely fine. If you’re not making any mistakes, you’re not learning anything new. So when a child beats themselves up for not being able to get something right, you tell them: it’s great that you’ve made a mistake because you know what you need to learn. The amazing thing about a growth mindset is that it creates people who are passionate to learn to build more knowledge to harness their skills further.
Curiosity allows us to be a child. When we are little kids, we ask all these big questions. We want to explore. We want to see what’s around us. We’re natural, curious, little scientists. Curiosity is a fundamental aspect of our nature. As we grow older, especially if we’ve gone through the traditional schooling system, we’re told more and more to behave a certain way, to think a certain way, to act a certain way. Our curious nature is almost on lockdown. We can’t ask certain questions. We have to stay on topic. We can’t really be creative. We lack that ability to explore. Asking questions is a big trait that humans have. This is why we’ve got all these amazing inventions! Everything around us is due to humans being curious by nature.
As parents and educators, it’s our role to facilitate that curiosity and ensure that they don’t lose that innate scientific-inquiry mind. This is why it’s so important for homeschoolers to harness that and utilise all the resources that we have around us to continue that love of learning. One of the things I’ve noticed by working with home educating families is that they will allow kids to naturally learn what they wish to learn.
At UK Virtual School, we encourage questions and curiosity. No questions are silly questions because every question quenches our thirst for knowledge and curiosity leads to exploration. What we want to establish at UK Virtual School is a blended approach to learning. Currently, we’re providing an online platform but in the future, we do want to create residential trips that allow kids to go to different countries with their families and explore cultures. This is why our worldviews subject, which covers geography, history, religious and cultural studies from the perspective of different countries, is going to be useful.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand and both are really important. We have students from all over the world. We’ve become global. It’s been an amazing experience – online allows you to connect with people across the world. Diversity is part of what we’ve become. Everyone knows someone from across the world. So we try to adapt. We work closely with families to make sure the transition to UK Virtual School is as smooth as possible and that we cater to everyone’s needs. Sometimes, it might mean that we have to change things – we have to do things differently.
As humans, we are diverse. We’ve created labels for colour, ethnicity, race and our identities. All of these descriptions paint a beautiful picture of who we are as individuals. We’re all different yet we’re all human. At UK Virtual School, we understand our individual quirks and personalities means that no two kids are going to be the same. As a result, we’re going to all learn differently. This is why we offer a range of different types of classes – to cater to different learning personalities.
We all work at different paces. We all have different likes and dislikes. Some kids like the interaction and yearn for it. That’s why interactive classes are really good for that kind of personality. Other kids like to work on their own – they like that independent learning approach, so our one-way stream classes are for those types of kids. Everyone has a unique perspective to bring to our community and one of the key things that we want to do at UK Virtual School is to create a family feel. Diversity and inclusion means, for us, that we treat you as an individual and that’s a really important value that we hold very closely.
We want kids to grow and think innovatively. Why? Because innovation leads to new discoveries. It leads to new technology and it makes the world go round. I was a finalist for the Female Innovator Award because of my work at UK Virtual School. It demonstrates that we have worked so hard this year to create something new in this field of online teaching. Innovation, to us, means thinking outside the box.
The skills to innovate and invent are skills that we want our students to have because it will help them achieve great success in the future. Innovation leads to entrepreneurship. It leads to working in tech, working in research, working in the STEM fields. We come up with new innovative ideas because when we solve problems, we naturally innovate.
We challenge our learners and our students to develop this skill set because it gives them the opportunity to create and present ideas and take part in innovative projects. Innovation relies on getting feedback. You can’t innovate if you don’t know that there’s a problem. So constantly receiving feedback enables us to innovate. This is why, I think, discussions with students are really important. The feedback that they get from teachers in class is going to help them improve and to become great thinkers.
We wanted to make sure that these values are incorporated with everything that we do. We created unique characters to represent them. They’re metaphors for those values and they allow the kids to also relate to them. I would ask: what are your values? What you’ll realize is every member in your family will hold different values – and it’s okay to have different values. This is why we see the world differently because we prioritize different things in our lives.
Podcasts are accessible to many families due to the number of platforms hosting them – and you don’t have to be enrolled to listen and be able to relate! The content covered is just as much of a learning journey to everyone. The UK Virtual School podcast plays a key part in our journey to an education revolution. Hosted by our founder Syd, the series covers a plethora of topics about changing the landscape of home education – the UKVS ethos, tips and guides for parents, shifting mindsets, interviews with actual parents and teachers, and many more! Listen to the series and episodes here.