This week has been one of those weeks where I have spent a lot of time considering values. My personal values, our organisation’s values, the values of others around me.
This weekend I will be welcoming a new intake of 10 BabyNatal trainee teachers from around the country. We always open our training weekends considering our personal values and how they fit with an empowering approach. All teachers who hold a Natal licence have been through a process of learning reflective practice in order to ensure that they are mindful about what and how they teach.
Why is this important? The core values throughout the Natal Company are about empowerment. In order to empower, one must be non-judgemental and unbiased. However, judgement and bias is part of human nature, and we must first be aware of it, in order to manage it. Natal classes aim to present options to parents in an empowering way, and it is this which differentiates us from a lot of education which does exist, teaching specific methods or approaches.
This leads to confusion sometimes. Does this mean that I disagree with or put down other programmes which exist which have an agenda or a method? No, absolutely not – everything has a place – but I do question the idea that one method is right for everyone.
Indeed, I find it worrying when any education programme or teacher claims to be the best. Any teacher worth their salt will know that it is impossible for one person/approach to suit every individual. The moment we suggest that we have the best approach for someone, before hearing their needs out first, means we are putting what we have to say above listening to that person – and that certainly does not make for empowering or person-centred practice.
My main pet-dislike is for programmes, methods or individuals who claim to be empowering when they are infact only putting forward one approach (while clearly dismissing others). Quite simply, if you give people just one way of doing something, it is not empowering practice – empowerment is about a range of choices! But this said, even this does not mean I disagree with any programme for what it is, or that I would not recommend it to someone who specifically wanted that kind of information. I do however think we owe it to parents to be honest about what we all represent, so that they can be empowered to choose an education provider who meets their individual needs or wishes.
It has clearly been the time I spent working in the third sector, where my values became deeply rooted. My priorities are always about social outcomes, or in plainer speak, ‘making a difference’. Cash and funding was important – but the most successful, life-changing projects were often those which applied a business approach to social impact, keeping the big goal in sight but not for personal profit.
Our values at the Natal Company will always centre around empowerment. We dont teach one particular method, but introduce parents to their choices. We don’t judge parents, no matter what their background, approach or desire to learn. We value mothers and fathers equally, but recognise their differences, and the strength of those differences. We do what we do to help others find their way, not impose our way. We are a business, but not one which puts profit before values.
Those are our values. What are yours?