What is the goal of your school?

Seriously, what is your school’s goal? How about your mission statement? Got one?

As a teacher, what does your school want you to do? Have they ever presented you with a clear well-defined statement of expectations (besides to teach)? Does each teacher have a goal? Is there one goal for all teachers, or do all teachers have different goals? (Is this good – or even possible?) How frequently are teacher goals reevaluated, revamped and revived? Are your evaluations being based – at least in part – on your goals and their attainment? Or are they collecting dust somewhere?

What do teachers want – or expect – from their students? Are students (and their teachers) setting outcome or performance goals? Are teachers ever taught the difference, or the importance, of these two very different types of goals? Do teachers help students to re-prioritize goals frequently, or on a regular basis? Building success through goal setting is the easiest and most direct approach to growth and development, but many schools have either left it out of the equation completely, or have “micromanaged” it (by their definition of goal setting) to the point of irrelevance.

What is the mission statement for your school? What is a mission statement? If you were to ask each teacher what is the mission statement of the school, could they tell you? Does your school have its mission statement in full view for all to see – and read every day? (If the answer is no, you may have to ask yourself some mission questions.) If you do not know the answers to these questions, ask a colleague. If they do not know – keep asking.

Professionals outside of education are told by practice management consultants that they must create a mission statement. They pay the consultant and then the professional is required to create a mission statement for their office before the consultant will even begin to work with them on goal setting. Once it is written, consultants then assist in the creation of both long and short term goals, followed up by teaching the professional how to create effective action steps to achieve these goals. Everyone learns the mission statement. It is repeated at every staff meeting to remind everyone why they are there – why they have jobs. Yes, everyone has different job descriptions, but the mission statement is the engine that moves the goals. My office had a mission statement that went like this:

“Our mission is to assist as many people in our community to live healthier and more productive lives by removing all spinal nerve interference in their bodies and to allow the body to grow, heal and repair itself naturally without any interference. To do this we will promote chiropractic in a good and positive light whenever and wherever possible.” Short, simple, easily-understood and concise. From here we were able to set goals that would support our mission. If an idea, or goal, did not support our mission statement it was either disregarded to better serve our patients. Goals change based on your mission statement.

This was the agenda for each weekly staff meeting. Yes, we had the mission statement on paper and everyone read it out loud – in unison – just like the “Pledge of Allegiance.” I would say it in the mirror each day before leaving home. Our office mission statement reinforced why we came to work each day and why we did what we did in our job descriptions. Does this sound too “cult-ish” because it was repeated it at every staff meeting every week? The truth is that schools are in desperate need of this motivation and support, because right now we are fractured and in dire need of direction. This requires a mission supported by goals and carried out though effective action steps.

This is why it might be a good idea to tighten up your mission statement.

Do teachers have all of this written down? Yes, we have “Rules, Procedures, Consequences, Policies, etc…” in our rooms – all different and all giving each student a different message. “You can do that in Mr. Jones’ class, but you can’t do that in here.” Many teachers enjoy this part of teaching because, “I can do my own thing!” Unfortunately, this approach to classroom autonomy is a weak link towards achieving overall student success. Each teacher doing their own thing is like knowing you can leave your dirty clothes on the floor if your father is home, but if your mother is there, it better be in the hamper. Different policies and procedures in a school are confusing to students and unintentionally decisive regarding strong school direction.

Your school needs one mission statement that translates into goals that everyone can understand, buy into and achieve. If not, it is impossible for the school to move forward with any greatness or distinction or in any direction to any destination. Here are Mission Statements from some of our finest universities.

Yale University

“The mission of Yale College is to seek exceptionally promising students of all backgrounds from across the nation and around the world and to educate them, through mental discipline and social experience, to develop their intellectual, moral, civic, and creative capacities to the fullest. The aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere of human activity.” Wow.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.)

“The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.”

Columbia University

“Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

From these mission statements, each professor can then create curriculum and a syllabus to provide guidance and direction for students. This is but one reason why colleges produce results and perhaps one reason why so many of our high school graduates are experiencing difficulty in college – lack of a basic foundational understanding of missions, goals, action steps and outcomes.” A little too convoluted and wordy for me.

Let’s get a few definitions straight. These may change slightly, but their intent never wavers. What is the difference between a mission statement, a goal, a strategy and an action plan?

Mission Statement – a statement of purpose of a group or organization – the reason for being in existence

Goal – an aim or a desired result of an individual or group

Strategy – A policy or method devised to achieve a particular aim or goal, usually over a long period of time

Action Plan – a sequence of steps to be taken, and executed effectively for a strategy – or goal – to be successful

So what is your school’s Mission Statement? For without a sound mission statement, how will you ever know what your mission is – why you come to work every day? Without your mission statement, how will your school ever create goals for both faculty and students? And most importantly, without a mission and without goals, how are teachers ever supposed to know what they are doing? Or what is to be expected of them?

If you are a school administrator, I suggest creating a mission statement, or revisit your current mission statement to see if it accurately mirrors the reason you are doing what it is you are doing (the reason your school is in business.) If you are a teacher, go online, find your school’s mission statement and use that to set goals that will support your school’s mission statement.

Dr. Michael Cubbin @ The Business of School

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