This article illustrates how a five-minute reflection to begin a leadership meeting led to a realization of a school growth and the revision of the mission statement.
In the classroom student inquiry can derail the teacher’s plans, most often resulting in the best learning experiences. During these times teachers scribble notes on post-its to document the incredible learning taking place or create impromptu anchor charts of student thinking. The lesson plan is revised in a moment of student directed inspiration. This is what happened to me.
Five times a year, CORE—a committee consisting of five representative teachers, the principal, and myself as PYP coordinator, who serve as our building’s pedagogical leadership team—meets to address a combination of programme development, building leadership and teacher-created agenda items. To facilitate our transition from lunch to the focus of our half-day meeting, I introduced a reflective activity with the intention of placing us in a mind-frame to think about the building as a whole and create a positive context for the remainder of the day. However, we were all surprised by the end result.
The prompt: “Write seven words or phrases you identify with our school.”
We wrote. A teacher asked if we should include the perspectives of students and community and not just teachers. Everyone nodded. We wrote more, adding new words and striking out others to keep the list limited to seven.
Committee members shared their lists which I copied into a web 2.0 tool. We took a moment’s satisfaction in the reflection, mentioned the duplication of areas where we were excelling (community and collaboration), noted areas like action where we were seeing growth. Then, a kindergarten teacher, who had recently returned from an International Baccalaureate (IB) workshop, mentioned the pieces of Rountree in the word cloud did not match our school mission statement.
The four-year-old mission statement, Rountree Elementary School empowers students to become inquiring, globally-minded lifelong learners, along with the learner profile, action cycle and key concepts, were taped to the wall beside the projector screen in our small meeting space. We sat in silence for a long moment while the gaze of every committee member moved from the word cloud to the mission statement on the wall and back to our word cloud.
Written four years earlier when the building was an IB candidate school, the old mission statement centered on inquiry and international-mindedness. Allowing students to guide learning, supporting student questioning, and expanding our professional lens beyond Missouri and the United States had challenged our thinking. We had liked the short, easily remembered statement which had been hung on hallway banners and was printed on hundreds of school t-shirts; but it was outdated. The sentence no longer reflected who we had become.
But who were we now?
We turned back to the word cloud.
Committee members flipped to the blank side of their agendas and began drafting revised mission statements using the descriptive word cloud as inspiration. While they shared their ideas, I documented the thinking:
- The Rountree community inspires students to think critically. . .
- The community of Rountree Elementary School takes action to be inquiring, globally-minded, lifelong learners.
- The Rountree Elementary community inspires others to be inquiring, globally-minded lifelong learners who take action locally and globally
- Rountree Elementary School challenges students and staff to be inquiring, lifelong learners who are caring and globally-minded community members that take action to make our world a better place
- The Rountree Community inspires to be caring , understanding and respectful. . .
- The community of Rountree engages globally-minded learners to take action through collaboration and critical thinking.
We consulted the IB mission statement and district mission statement as we consolidated drafts and refined the phrasing. Before the meeting finished we had a draft and a plan: committee members would return to the staff they represent and obtain feedback and possible revisions then the principal would obtain community feedback and district approval.
The staff conversations resulted in a few changes to the wording which shortened the draft: The Rountree Elementary Community collaborates to inspire caring, creative, successful lifelong learners who engage in action locally and globally to make the world a better place.
In alignment with our plan, the draft will be reviewed by community and parents through January.
We did not set out to change the mission statement that afternoon. As a PYP coordinator, my goal had been to create an opportunity to reflect on our school’s growth in the Primary Years Programme and help teachers shift from a classroom mindset to one of building leadership. However, the resulting teacher inquiry was the best possible outcome.
Laura Burdette is Rountree’s PYP Coordinator and Library Media Specialist. This unique combination provides her the perspectives of teacher and programme leadership. She has a master’s degree and twenty-four years of classroom experience. When not at school, she enjoys being with her family and creative projects of making homemade soap, knitting and writing.