Started reading Start. Right. Now.: Teach and Lead for Excellence by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul, Jimmy Casas. The authors start off discussing the importance of living and breathing mission statements. “We believe in the power of mission statements that are created with intention and communicated and acted upon regularly. The organizational mission statement should succinctly answer the questions,’Why do we (as a classroom, school, or district) exist? What is our core purpose for being?’”
It’s easy to see the power of these words, especially when these leaders drive home the clear point that words without action are just words. “Even with a compelling mission statement in place — one that is known by all members of the organization, communicated regularly among many in the organization, and used frequently as a driving force for decision making — having an overarching description of why we exist is still not as important as the consistent behaviors each team member exhibits as they go about their jobs.“
That got me thinking. We have mission statements in all of our schools. We have a district mission statement. And further, we have 4 strategic goals as a district. The establishment of these goals was one of the first things our new superintendent, Kevin Alfano, did. He hired a group to facilitate a rigorous process of interviews and questions. Teachers, administrators, parents, business people, community leaders, association leaders, classified staff, students, etc. 14 different groups of people. At the conclusion of all of this work, 4 goals emerged. Academic Excellence. Transition Readiness. Parent, Family, Community Engagement. High Quality Work Force. Now these 4 goals are definitely not just words. They live in our mission statements. We bounce all of our ideas, goals, and plans off of them. They give muscle, motion, and meaning to our mission statements.
And even with all of that, I am not sure every single educator could talk about the mission statements and the 4 strategic goals. I’m not convinced they live everyday, in the classroom. They’re far better than I’ve seen in my 30+ years in this district. They’re closer to our daily thoughts and efforts. But they’re not quite there yet.
What is there? Fightin’ Words.
At least two of our building leaders have rallying cries. Or what I’m calling Fightin’ Words. They use them ALL the time with their teachers and students. Everybody knows them in the whole school. One is, “Whatever it takes.” His colleague’s words for his staff and students are, “We’re all in this together.” Both of these leaders then act and expect their colleagues and students to also act, based on these words. The words are alive and kicking everyday. Come decision time, they’re not reviewing the mission statement, they’re looking at their fightin’ words. Are we doing ‘Whatever it takes’ as we make decisions and take action at one place. Are we ‘All in this together’ when we’re making decisions and taking action at the other place.
Talk is cheap. Words have power and require action. Reminds me of this great idea.
So I’d ask each of us, including and especially myself, “What are your fightin’ words?” Where does the rubber of the mission statement and strategic goals meet the road of the classroom or school?
Whatever it takes. We’re all in this together.