Thinking About Mission

Yesterday at the opening assembly, the head of the middle school asked for a volunteer to share the mission of the school. 300+ usually gregarious middle schoolers were totally silent. I’m sure being in a large auditorium on the first day of school had something to do with their hesitancy, but I’m also fairly certain that most students weren’t sure what the mission is. (I confirmed this with a group of students after the fact.) I wouldn’t necessarily expect the incoming 6th graders to be able to know the mission of the school, but would hope that the 7th and 8th graders had heard it more than once.

So this morning at the kitchen table, I pounded out a series of questions related to the mission of the school. Rather than asking 8th grade students in US History just to come up with goals for the year, I asked them to use the questions to connect their reflections and aspirations to the school mission. I asked that their reflections refer both to experiences inside and outside of school because outside of school experiences deeply shape students in ways that I think school should honor.

We are a learning community committed to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence.

A learning community…
What gifts/talents can you offer to the community? How can you help CA become a stronger community?
committed to Discovery…
What things (about American history) are you interested in discovering? What topics are already old territory for you?
Innovation…
What are some new things you’d like to try this school year? What are things that you’ve done in the past that might benefit from a new approach?
Collaboration…
What are some things you’ve done in the past that demonstrated effective collaboration? How could you improve your collaboration skills?
Excellence…
In what areas are you farther along on the road to excellence? In what areas do you have farther to go?

Respect, Integrity, and Compassion- (The three values listed in our statement of community values)
In what ways have you demonstrated RIC at CA in the past? What are some personal areas for RIC improvement?

DICE Reflections

The questions related to excellence were challenging to write because I was trying to balance a notion of excellence with Carol Dweck’s research in books such  as Mindset which suggest that thinking of oneself as good or bad at something can actually inhibit further growth. I think in future years, I’d add a couple questions about the word committed and roll the RIC questions into the learning community session.

As I walked around and overheard/read student work, I saw thoughtful reflections on a wide range of past and future learning. Students were also doing a nice job pushing each other to offer more specific evidence (“I am good at math is so vague. Come on.”) I’m looking forward to reading the final products.

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