A SMART approach to the world ahead

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.

Follow @HVF_Values

Website: www.humanvaluesfoundation.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image credit: Pixabay. Image credit: Pixabay.

Q: What’s going to enable students to make smart choices as they prepare for their journeys after school - and aspire to become leaders of tomorrow?

A: Great, creative schools that cultivate a culture of leadership and smart, outward-looking teachers who instil passion in all their students.

Aspirational students on the verge of leaving safe, supportive school environments will need to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, be aware of what ignites their energy and passion, have a vision, and understand what it takes to be a leader.

Know yourself

Since one’s work is likely to take up a significant slice of one’s time, it is important that throughout their school careers, students are constantly exposed to a broad curriculum. We must give them plenty of opportunities to venture outside their comfort zones; to “We are empowered when we live by values true to our inner-selves.”try out all kinds of experiences so as to identify what they enjoy, where their talents lie and, conversely, what they don’t find stimulating and don’t excel at.

It behoves students to reflect on the peaks and troughs of their experiences and their feelings - highs and lows. The insights gained from critical thinking help to zone in on what is life-enriching and good for their wellbeing, as well as what they should probably avoid.

Few of us are conscious of how our personal values reflect our priorities, and how they act as guideposts for our thought processes, our decision-making, and our actions when we face crossroads in life. However, we are empowered and energised when we deliberately live by values that resonate with our true, inner selves, and those that are in alignment with our moral compass. If we go against them, we haemorrhage our energy and are weakened. It is therefore vital that students gain a good grasp of their core values. The free Personal Values Assessment made available from the Barrett Values Centre is an enlightening tool that can steer students in worthwhile directions at the outset of their post-school careers.

Vision and goals

For students to succeed, they need a vision of where they are heading and goals that will act as milestones along the way. Every journey requires planning, and a SMART framework can assist with preparations and generate informed choices:


A SWOT analysis (examining personal, internal Strengths and Weaknesses, plus external Opportunities and Threats) is conducive to students determining clear objectives, ensuring they know how to manage personal factors well with growth mindsets, while taking on board external factors that will inevitably impact their voyage. The exercise can expose elements they might encounter along the way, which students can begin to consider so as to be well prepared for creatively and advantageously exploiting them, should they crop up.


Motivation sets the tone. It’s important for students to spend some time identifying some of the critical differences between leaders and managers. Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, but it can certainly be learned and enhanced through coaching and mentoring.

Some people may not seem to have the flare and qualities to be an inspirational, enthusiastic leader - one who nurtures followers so they too flourish and succeed. However, when they latch onto what they are passionate about, a student’s whole demeanour can change. It’s vital not to underestimate their potential.

Leaders set direction and facilitate progress, transformatively guiding and directing groups of people or organisations. They have personal charisma “Personal integrity is critical.”that attracts followers. They need to create trust, and so personal integrity is critical. They display passion that sells their endeavour, and are driven by achievement. They are fired up by the excitement of their vision, and are not averse to taking risks, opening up new roads. They give credit where it’s due, and accept blame when things go pear-shaped. Failings provide food for thought.


For students to succeed, they require strong desire, commitment and determination to reach their destinations. They need to consider what it takes to be successful, so they can figure out appropriate learning strategies, develop necessary skills and capacities, and reduce the chances of acting blindly, wasting precious time, resources and opportunities.

Students will need to determine the most effective routes to achieve their desired outcomes. However, flexibility is key - especially when they need to revise some of their plans, and possibly explore new solutions in order to triumph in navigating their way through life’s challenges. Some essential learning will feel tedious, and some will be exhilarating. It will all take time, so patience and perseverance are vital.

Students need to monitor their progress and results, constantly mapping them against their plans, taking corrective action, and even amending their objectives.


Inevitably, travellers will encounter the unexpected; setbacks, barriers, challenges, problems, clashes, failings and vulnerabilities. Personal values can provide the strength needed in tricky situations. It’s important that pupils remain true to themselves - withstanding pressures and tension, staying on track, accepting failures along the way, and yet remaining resolute about making progress. Shared values can provide a leader and their followers with the glue to stick together through adversity.

Students need to appreciate that to consolidate their learning, effort, deliberate practice and perseverance are critical. Success comes from deep and sustained commitment. They need unswerving commitment to their dreams, otherwise efforts will flag.


Teachers are role models. Many a successful leader has paid glowing tributes to how a certain teacher believed in him or her. Such past role models are both a mentor and a coach, clearly loved learning and nurtured life-changing building blocks for that person’s learning and fulfilment. Crucially, this teacher will have cared about their pupils, and wanted them to succeed. The teacher was a leader.

Teachers who are supportive and use their professional judgement - not just to determine how best to get through a curriculum, but also in ways that look outwards into the wider world - are opening up their students to possibilities and dreams. They are also fostering strategies that will consolidate and deepen their students’ learning, and in doing so are laying foundations and enhancing skills, dispositions and motivations.

The inner journey is vital, embracing self-questioning and reflection.

Schools that create a culture of leadership promote character strengths and encourage their students to verbalise and seek help when necessary. The adults making up the school community are ambitious for their young citizens, and encourage ever-higher standards. They proactively enable their students to transfer learning to other contexts. They know that working with others is a very powerful means of extending opportunities for personal growth and development. They encourage the listening to others in discussion, and seek ways of helping students to make connections between what is being learnt with what is happening beyond the school gates. They are constantly extending their own knowledge and practices, gently helping students realise what they don’t yet know.

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"