Here at Teach For Malaysia, we hold firm to our core values as we take on both our daily tasks and the ultimate goal of ending education inequity. Recently, Communications Intern Sasha Omar asked Matt Sheldon, our Training & Support Director, for his take on our core values. Here’s what he had to say:
What is the core value that you relate to the most and why?
Of course, all of the organisation’s values resonate with me. However without a sense of possibility – a deep seated belief that absolutely any child can achieve, be happy and healthy and that ‘we’ can affect this change – we would be limited as a movement. As a result, I would say this value is the one I relate to the most.
Without this belief anchoring all the work I do and the words I say, I could not work with integrity. We demand our employees and our fellows to reach extraordinary levels of performance, often in new and challenging contexts. However, I believe that they, and their students, can do this. I also believe that by doing this their lives can be transformed and forever changed. My belief is based on my own experience – personally, as a teacher and organisational leader.
There is nothing more emancipating than believing that you – as an individual – can own and control your destiny. Too many of our children – in any country we choose to focus on – do not grow up with this belief. Giving anyone this gift of belief is incredibly motivating for me.
Which core values are most difficult or challenging and why?
Ok, this is difficult! I’m going to say it…I think integrity is the most difficult value to live up to. I say this not because it is difficult to constantly make decisions with integrity but rather because it is incredibly difficult to be understood to be living up to this value.
We have so many different stakeholders; our work is complex, challenging, fast-moving, human, organisational, and inspirational. All these elements come with their own expectations and it is very easy to be misunderstood when you are constantly wearing different hats and managing fast-moving situations. The easy way out is to say to yourself ‘I know why I made these decisions; I know they were made using our values’. However, that really doesn’t matter to many of the stakeholders we care about. So, excellent communication of decisions is actually almost as important as the integrity behind making them. This is very difficult to constantly live up to, but we must.
How have these core values impacted you? Do they contribute to your personal development?
Like many people, I don’t think these values have ‘become’ my values. I see in them what I believe already. However, they are really useful to share with my colleagues, with Fellows and Alumni as a common language. They are also useful for my personal development – I might believe in their importance already but that doesn’t mean I cannot develop my understanding of these values in my work.
Which core value do you see most prominently in your work within Teach For Malaysia?
Pass! I don’t think one is more important or prominent in my work. They work together and sometimes in tension with each other and this is way it should be.
Why do you think TFM specifically chose to highlight these four core values?
Many words can be used as values and, used properly, can have a positive impact on any organisation. However the TFM values work because they encapsulate the core of what we must be and do to inspire, develop and impact on many people’s lives. ‘Sense of possibility’ captures our belief in life beyond the status quo. ‘Excellence’ speaks to quality – high minded ideals mean little if your work is not of the highest standard. We are joining many other expert and inspirational individuals and organisations who are working to improve education for all children, we need to be effective at working together or we will only be effective working alone – hence ‘collaboration’. And finally, as I mentioned above, we must always be grounded in honesty, transparency and integrity as the stakes of our work are so high.