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What's Your School Mission?

"What's your mission?", Asked Will Richardson. Who would have thought such a simple question could be so provoking and actionable? Richardson travels the world to meet with educators and students as he strives to gain a deeper understanding of schools and the role they play in learning. His simple analysis suggests only a small percentage of students and educators are aware of their school's mission and vision, and an even smaller percentage of school stakeholders are actually "living their mission."



"Do you have a mission, or are you on a mission?" This was a fundamental question posed during week four of Change.School cohort three. Does your school or district have a mission statement? If so, where does it live? I didn't know my district's mission statement, but I was able to find it after a simple, quick Google search. It's difficult to live a mission without knowing what it says. Furthermore, I don't recall any deep involvement in the crafting of our district mission. Lack of stakeholder contributions, is this a problem?

"_________________________ serves the educational needs of the community inspiring all students to successfully contribute to the world."

As we've discussed in our cohort, the foundation of successful school change is built on beliefs, current contexts, and practices. Bruce Dixon asked our group, "How can we develop a mission and vision that best represents the values, beliefs, and intentions of a school community?" Citing Russell Ackoff, "Most mission statements are worthless because they consist largely of pious platitudes."

My district's mission contains inspiring language, but its ambiguity makes it difficult to follow in day-to-day practice. For whom was this written? Where is the overt pledge to learning? Many missions are written in support of teaching cultures inadvertently ignoring the student facets of school improvement. With respects to my district's mission, I appreciate the spirit of serving the community and the acknowledgment of global interconnectedness as it's well-suited for modern contexts. 

The mission, the story, of my reimagined school, would include these three values:
  • Facilitate personal learning for all.
  • Serve the community in the form of collaborative projects.
  • Provide tools and opportunities for global contribution.

"A clear vision and a common mission that identify the kind of learning to be achieved can help keep the school and the efforts of its staff and students on target." (Peterson, 1995)

John G. Gabriel and Paul C. Farmer, co-authors of "How to Help Your School Thrive Without Breaking the Bank" share helpful strategies for school leaders starting to create or update their school mission statement.
  1. Identify and prepare vision and mission oversight teams.
  2. Review existing statements to determine their relevance and accuracy.
  3. Create a plan to engage the staff in revising the existing mission statement or creating a new one.
  4. Ask incisive questions to guide staff in developing their mission.
  5. Begin dialogue that includes a plan for putting concepts into action.
  6. Drafts of the mission should be clear and concise, reflecting the values of the students and staff.
Successful schools and organizations understand the value of getting everyone on the same page. A good mission statement helps to define a school's purpose, as well as, serve as a guide towards improvement. Drafting and publishing a school mission may actually be the simple part of the equation. The beliefs, purpose, and commitments established by the school mission present students and staff with daily expectations and challenges. More than involvement, full engagement and empowerment will make the school mission a guiding promise supporting a dynamic culture of learning.

References

ASCD. "Chapter 2. Developing a Vision and a Mission." Developing a Vision and a Mission. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/107042/chapters/Developing-a-Vision-and-a-Mission.aspx.

Heick, Terry. "The Problem With Most School Mission Statements." TeachThought. October 23, 2017. https://wegrowteachers.com/problem-school-mission-statements/?utm_content=bufferb326a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

Education World: Mission Statements: Where Is Your School Going? http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin229.shtml.


photo credit: Thomas Hawk San Francisco You're a Woman via photopin (license)

Comments

Aaron Davis said…
Nice post Bob. You might be interested in this post from Adrian Camm (https://adriancamm.com/2015/05/15/vision-for-learning/). He has done a lot of work in this area.

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