I wrote this for my school’s last newsletter of the year. It is a culmination of the hard work my leadership team put in to developing our school’s new mission. These eighteen words work well with each other. You might not realize that it was a two month process to create this mission. The resource Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year by Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) and Parry Graham has been instrumental in helping my staff move forward in collaborating at high levels of learning and engagement.
This year at Howe, one of the goals was to revisit our school vision. It is good practice for any organization to reflect on their purpose. The result: In addition to our vision statements, we also developed a mission. A mission is different than a vision. It describes where we want to go. It is a destination of where we want to be in the future, sort of like a horizon. We are constantly moving forward, even if perfection is unattainable. Vision statements describe the pathway in which to achieve our mission. What a mission provides is a concise, memorable message about our purpose. A mission and vision go hand in hand. Please read and think about about the proposed mission you see below:
Our Mission: To foster a community of engaged learners, focused on academic and social growth, preparing for our changing future.
These words were chosen very carefully. Let’s break this down into smaller parts to understand the mission’s meaning more deeply:
To foster a community of engaged learners,
We as educators are responsible for creating a climate that will encourage deep thinking and reflection with our students. Engagement is the state of being emotionally involved or committed to something that is important to that person. In the schoolhouse, engagement means staff connecting with our students personally as well as cognitively. Engagement means giving students some choice in what they want to learn, as well as opportunities to share their learning with peers. Engagement means providing an authentic audience and a shared purpose when students are representing their thinking. When classrooms work together to learn with and from each other, our engagement helps create a community of learners.
focused on academic and social growth,
In order to be successful, we believe the skills and knowledge students should attain should be both knowing how to learn as well as knowing how to act. The staff at Howe Elementary School strive to be explicit in our teachings. We model it, have students try it as a whole group, then give guidance and eventually independence. Our goal is to create learners who are self-directed and self-motivated. Instilling this responsibility is a daily focus.
preparing for our changing future.
The world you and I grew up in is a lot different than the one our kids now inhabit. Instead of searching for specific information about a topic, learners today have to sort through all the information they have access to and determine which is most accurate and relevant. How we teach students must also change. We are guides instead of just providers of what students should know and be able to do. We are all learners in today’s world. As new knowledge continues to be created, this skill of knowing how to learn is a critical one.