Musings on education
Something new each week starting soon
Perhaps like you, I prefer to work in a place with a purpose, a plan, a mission. It excites me that we all know why we are here. A shared mission builds community and common purpose. It is the rudder on a steady ship. When a mission is crisp, clear and understood, there are few uncertainties.
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.
If you are an educator or a student, take a minute and try to remember your own school's mission. If you know it and it is meaningful, excellent! Please share it in the comments below! If you do not know the mission, is it because it is too long, meaningless or full of generalities such as "excellence", "internationalism", and "life-long learning"? Do your eyes glaze over when you think of it? It does not have to be this way!
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.
Let's look at a few that capture my fancy for their simplicity. (All of these mission statements have been taken from MissionStatements.com)
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.
Are you at a school with no mission, a long-winded mission, and/or a meaningless mission? Here are some pitfalls for schools without a meaningful mission:
Here's the good stuff. A mission is a statement that reflects the soul of the school. Among the benefits for schools with a meaningful mission:
Please share your own school's mission in the comments section below. Maybe we can all think about which ones are worthy of being reflections of a soul of a school.
Until next weekend!