How Our Choices Reflect our Beliefs and Values

Every day we make decisions. It’s unavoidable as school leaders. Should we purchase another digital subscription to an online literacy tool, or should we reexamine our current products first? Which read aloud will we use to kick off the first professional development day of the school year? How will I start the day – checking email or quietly reflecting on yesterday through journaling?

These choices we make reflect our beliefs (what we know right now to be true) and our values (our beliefs in action). Often, and I include myself in this description, we make mindless decisions without really thinking about the “why” behind our choices or even the effects of our decision-making, both short-term and long-term.

To combat this mindlessness in my role as a school principal/literacy leader, I have started to more closely examine some of the decisions we make. First, I look at the decision itself. Let’s start with something relevant at this time of the year: school schedules and choosing when the literacy block will be placed at each grade level. Often the literacy block is scheduled in the morning because several faculty members express concern that kids are tired in the afternoon (not the case in my current school).

Now let’s break this decision down by examining possible beliefs, values, and results.

School Decision: Literacy blocks scheduled only in the morning
Possible Beliefs: Students learn better in the morning; Afternoons offer less opportunities for meaningful instruction
Apparent Values: Literacy is a priority; Other areas of study are less of a priority
Potential Results: Interventionists cannot work with students in the morning due to RtI rules; Other content areas and encore that are relegated to afternoons may be perceived as less valuable; Faculty may fail to see opportunities for integration between literacy and other content areas.

These beliefs and values are neither good or bad; they simply are what they are. We can assign meaning to them or not. However our understanding might be different than someone else affected by the decision of literacy blocks only in the morning. The potential results are where we can be more objective about choices. Are we happy with these results? If not, what could we do differently that might lead to different outcomes?

By following a process like this, where we more clearly see the results of our decision-making, we can also better understand our current perspective. It is only when we start taking a closer look at our decision-making that we can begin to re-examine our beliefs and values. Maybe there is room to grow in this area so that future decision-making is more beneficial for our students.


Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

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