Mission Statements - Walk the Talk
Enter any school and you are likely to view a well designed and displayed mission statement eloquently communicating the school's values and its vision for its students. I have read many examples of school mission statements and identified some common vocabulary among them. Foster, promote, safe, relationships, academic, citizens, community, skills, achievement, prepare, and success are some of the most common words. These are inspiring statements that when communicated to students and faculty in our schools can motivate and direct the actions and words of those who walk our halls.
I see some problems surrounding mission statements, though. First, in order to walk the talk of those statements, you have to know what they say. Honestly, I don't know the mission statement of my school. Anyone else care to admit that? I'm assuming it includes some of those words I mentioned before. How can I achieve a mission if I don't even know what it is? I need to be familiar with it. More importantly, I need to be familiar with my own mission statement I have for my students. My mission is to provide an educational experience for my students that promotes them to become confident problem solvers who can influence others through communication of the processes they endure and the products they produce. Without this mission and accompanying vision, what is driving me? Second, those mission statements are written to lead students toward the type of success that schools and teachers want for their students. But the type of success demanded of students by entities financing the schools has a much different definition. Someone needs to rewrite what "education" views as success. Wouldn't it be sad to read a statement like, "We strive to push every child to pass the state standardized test in order to receive a great evaluation and funding from our state government." Am I the only one that sees a disparity between what we say we want to do in our mission statement and what we actually have to do in the current educational climate?
"Wise are those who learn that the bottom line doesn't always have to be their top priority." William Arthur Ward
Finally, is what we do in class moving us closer to or further away from meeting our personal mission or school mission? Time for some self-reflection and I'll join in on this as well. What methods and practices promote essential skills like creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking? What are we doing to purposely build a supportive learning community that values the physical and emotional safety of our students? Are we providing challenges and a proven method to follow that builds our students' confidence and courage to be innovative and creative? Do we model and value a growth mindset that embraces the concept of being on a journey of improving toward OUR definition of success? Being committed to these provides the foundation on which an amazing academic experience and achievement are built.
Some may view these ideas as Utopian or time spent that will not enable us to reach the mission of students passing standardized tests. If that is the case, we need to rewrite our personal mission statement. Write it to reflect our efforts. After all, our efforts determine our priorities. What foundation are we building upon if this is our mission? And what do we envision for our students? There is a reason that passing standardized tests is not included as one of the 21st-century skills. To all educators reading this, read and share your school's mission statement. Take some time to reflect. It's time we all started walking its talk.