Before looking at schools, let's take a look at these two missions from the corporate world: Apple in 1980 and Apple in 2016 (as quoted in Business Insider). Which of the two missions do you prefer?
This first one is from 1980: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
The second mission statement is from today: "Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad."
Take a second to reflect. Which one might inspire you? Which company sounds exciting to work at? If it's the first, it may be because the original mission addresses what Simon Sinek calls the "why" or the raison d'etre of Apple (see his 17-minute TED Talk on the subject here). In 1980, Apple knew why they existed and were ready to create new "tools for the mind", yet unnamed, that would advance humankind. A heady mission indeed!
What about today? It looks like they are concentrating not on the "why" but on the "what". Today, Apple concentrates on the product. It seems to be a mission about making stuff so they can make money. Not so inspiring anymore.
So, which Apple would you want to work for? An Apple that creates new as yet unnamed tools to help mankind? Or an Apple that creates Macs? Your call.
A school's mission can change over time and should reflect the needs of a school's current situation. Most important is that a mission statement should be about something that can be connected to everything the school does. Every proposal, every lesson, every act of the school must connect in some way with the mission.
That does not mean a mission should include everything. Quite the opposite.
Belmont Hill School 350 Prospect Street Belmont, MA 02478:
Mission Statement: To Ensure the Safety and Security for Each Person in our Community
I am not sure what prompted this mission, but everything done within the school can be attached to this mission. If it is not ensuring safety, perhaps it should not be done.
New Horizons School
The Mission of New Horizons School is to provide a school for homeless children. Our objective is to help the children escape the bonds of poverty and hopelessness by providing education, life skills, values and a caring environment that will empower them to successfully move into the mainstream of society.
Straightforward and again, if something is proposed that will not empower these homeless children, it should not be done.
Brehm Preparatory School 1245 East Grand Avenue Carbondale, IL 62901
Brehm’s mission is to empower students with complex learning disabilities to recognize and optimize their full potential.
If it doesn't help the student recognize self-potential, it should not be done.
Buckley Community School 305 South First St. Buckley, Michigan 49620
The mission of the Buckley Community School, where kids come first, is to partner with families to develop enthusiastic learners.
If someone proposes an activity where kids don't come first, where families aren't involved or where the kids' eyes will glaze over, trash it!
You get the idea. One sentence or two at most. Do-able. Those are missions.
- People can do pretty much what they want with little connection to the soul of a school.
- Accountability is to administrators, rather than to a stated ideal. A school centres on personalities rather than a shared idea.
- Any movement forward may be stopped by the next person in the chain of command, the next flavour of the month or the next head.
- There is little chance for consistency in progress.
- No one really knows why the school does what it does.
- Teachers and students can propose new ideas knowing the ideas connect with a mission and are likely to be accepted.
- Administrators can approve or deny proposals based on whether they connect with the mission.
- All members of the school community can answer for themselves "does this further the mission of the school?"
Until next weekend!