Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Image: Facebook/Foundation For A Better Life 

‘It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.'
~ Roy E. Disney

We do not come into the world with a set of values, we learn them in childhood from those around us.

These values are handed down from generation to generation, guiding their  development along the journey into adulthood.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet either of my grandfathers, but their memories were kept alive with the many stories Mum and Dad shared with us, throughout our lives.

One of my favourite stories of Mum’s father, Grandpa Edward, lodges in my memory, as a perfect example of love in action.

The story goes:

One very cold Irish morning, Grandpa cleaned and polished 8 pairs of shoes (yes, that’s right cleaned and polished EIGHT pairs of shoes – his, and those of his 7 children), then set off for work, resplendent in the new jacket my grandmother, Elizabeth, had recently bought for him.

He bravely returned home that evening - MINUS the new jacket!

When questioned by Nanna, my grandfather explained that he had given it away to someone who needed it more than he, saying, ‘Sure it was freezing cold, and the gentleman had no jacket at all to his name, and I had another one waiting for me in the wardrobe at home.’

Image: Facebook/You they and me 

It warms my heart to be a granddaughter of this man who was able to see beyond himself, to empathize with a fellow human being, in such a respectful and loving way. 

Edward met a fellow traveller on the road, cold, and down on his luck, and was able to do something about it, so he did  – simple as that.

The values by which Edward lived his life certainly contributed to influencing the values and behaviour of his 7 children. My mum and her six brothers were kindness itself, as they lived their lives, serving the needs of their families and those around them.

Their legacy continues, as I witness those same values in my own siblings, our children, and their cousins.

Albert Schweitzer was correct in saying, ‘Leading by example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing’, and we cannot ever afford to underestimate the influence we have on the young people around us. Our guidance and support are paramount in helping them to develop strong moral compasses and firm foundations, for becoming strong global citizens of the future.

Image: Facebook / Character Counts – Official page 

Schools often treat values as a separate, add-on subject, but, as Jean Paul Satre once stated, ‘Childhood decides’, so it is imperative for positive values to be not only modelled and affirmed in schools, but to be also integrated into daily classroom practice and timetables.

When it comes to specific lessons on values, song can be a very practical, non-threatening resource for kickstarting discussion, and a most invaluable tool for integrating learning across other subject areas.

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff and I, recently released an international version of our popular values song, ‘LIVING VALUES’ which does just that.

‘LIVING VALUES’ is a whole school, anthem-style song, encapsulating the values set out by the Australian government’s nine 'Values For Australian Schooling' document.

Below, you’ll find a sample of our song lyrics, the values targeted, and some simple suggestions for integrating this, or any values song you may have at your disposal.

The Australian government’s nine 'Values For Australian Schooling': 

·      Care & Compassion
·      Doing your best
·      Responsibility
·      Freedom
·      Integrity
·      Respect
·      Fair Go
·      Honesty & Trustworthiness
·      Understanding, Tolerance & Inclusion

 Image: Facebook/Healing with Art 


Before playing or singing song, unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g.
  • Line 1, Verse 1: How do we demonstrate care for ourselves and others – at school/home/on the sports field/socially, etc?.
  • Line 5, Verse 1: What does it mean ‘building character is our destiny’? 
  • Line 3, Verse 3: Name someone who comes to mind when you hear the word ‘integrity’
  • Line 3, Verse 4: In what context is ‘sister’ brother’ used?
  • Line 8, Verse 3: What are some of the qualities/values demonstrated by a team?
  • Q: How can we work together as a class team?
  • Q: How can we demonstrate these and other positive values in our dealings with classmates, teachers, parents, siblings, social groups, etc.

(Depending on age of students)
  • Discuss each value in the song and invite students to share examples from their own experiences
  • Write definitions for each of these values
  • Use values words in sentences

Image: Facebook / Michael Josephson

Study the lives of inspirational people such as Mother Teresa and martin Luther King, Jr,.. and discuss/ write about…values they demonstrated in their lives. 


Students paint each value word from the song, and attach to a ruler to form a placard (to be used in  a simple, assembly performance piece).


At school assembly, students file onto stage, hold up placard, state value and definition, the form a circle and move in circle singing song.

Image: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
(Kathryn Radloff (sitting) & Nuala O'Hanlon with students)

©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music

Sample lyrics:

In our school, we have values
That show how much we care,

About giving all a fair go,

In this great land that we share.

Verse 1

Caring for ourselves and others,

Always aiming to do our best,

Treating everybody fairly,

With understanding and respect.

Building character is our destiny,

We are working for the good of all,

With sincerity and honesty,

Moving forward, walking tall.
©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music

FYI: 'LIVING VALUES' is available as a digital mp3 download.

Yours in Singing  to Learn,

♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫
 ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫

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