School vision and mission statements should not be regarded as empty words. They can be useful – but it depends on what they include and how they’re used. Our mission statement is a strategic document to indicate the purpose and priorities of ISM. It makes a public statement about what we see as the purpose of education we provide and how our students should learn.
In a nutshell, our vision statement outlines our objectives, and the mission statement indicates how we aim to achieve that vision.
Inspiring future-focused learners
Vision and mission statements in schools are used to make a public declaration of the values of the school. We see often see them on the website and prospectus, but are such statements useful, or just nice to look at but of little substance? All school leaders ought to reflect on their personal values and the connections with those values and the institutions’ statements.
This year, in addition to using my own core values as a filter for decision-making, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about our school mission statement and how it should factor into my daily work.
The mission statement reads:
ISM constantly innovates to meet the needs of our individual learners in an ever-changing world.
ISM empowers learners with agency and encourages inquiry.
ISM inspires learners to follow their passion.
At ISM, we are all learners.
We should consider how our vision and mission statement is implemented in our every day lifer. How are we communicating our statements and to whom? But more importantly how the vision and mission statement is linked strategically to our school policies and practices.
Using our values and guiding statements to build a better schedule
Last academic year, the staff of the International School Mainfranken built a common understanding of learning.
Common Understanding of Learning
At ISM, we understand that learning is a lifelong, ongoing process.
Learners develop understanding by acquiring knowledge and skills, constructing meaning and making connections through inquiry, action and reflection.
This statement was then used to define our Principals of Learning, a set of values that are evident in our daily work and that ought to guide our decision making processes.
Using our Values and Mission to Make Decisions
Therefore, to be true to our new set of values and mission, I have begun intentionally consulting our core values and the school mission before any decision made in working with staff, students, and families.
These are the questions to ask before taking any action:
How will the action inspired by the decision to support our principles of learning?
Is the action really important?
Will it support student agency?
Will it grow students’ ATL skills?
Will it help our students be more successful?
Even if I feel I am being true to our principles unless the answer to at least one of questions is a firm yes, I believe that there is no reason to take action and so I don’t.
Our first task was to benchmark our most important policies and structures against our new Vision/Mission and Understanding of Learning. Very early on it was evident that our daily schedule was not built with learning in mind. In order to change that we made lists of needs and wants and matched them against our PYP and DP programme requirements, ISM Principles of Learning, and research.
|Schedules Need||Why||Resources||ISM Principles of Learning|
|Ample recess/movement time||Movement helps children with focus and develops the brain. Movement helps with gross and fine motor, which children need to write, sit in chairs, handle materials.||https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/53681/how-movement-and-exercise-help-kids-learn|
|Inclusivity, Independence and Interaction, Challenge, Creativity,|
|Unstructured times (for example work choice, quiet choice, soft starts)||Unstructured times replenish willpower, increase opportunities to learn decision making, work on social skills, and pursue passion projects||https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower-limited-resource.pdf|
|Independence and Interaction|
|Morning meetings, closing meetings, time for relationship building across the day||Teaching is about relationships and community. These are the times of day when we build those things with intentionality.||https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/appsych/opus/issues/2013/fall/gallagher|
|Authenticity, Inclusivity, Reflection|
|Play, all kinds||Play is often where kids develop new intellectual skills, explore social concepts, and activate a growth mindset||http://www.playengland.org.uk/media/120519/play-for-a-change-summary.pdf|
|Independence and Interaction, Challenge, Creativity,|
|Time for working on social-emotional competencies (whole-class conversations, reflective circles, calming spaces)||It is our responsibility to help children thrive in school and beyond. |
One aspect of being prepared for the world is social competency
|https://www.upworthy.com/researchers-studied-kindergarteners-behavior-and-followed-up-19-years-later-here-are-the-findings||Inclusivity, Independence and Interaction, Creativity, Reflection|
|Enable inquiry during the day||Inquiry based learning helps our students to make their own connections about what they learn. Their curiosity helps them engage and gain a deeper understanding of issues and content.||https://www.teachthought.com/learning/flow-theory-classroom-primer/|
|Authenticity, Challenge, Creativity, Reflection|
As a result we introduced the following type scheduling to adhere to our values as best as we could:
We introduced a dedicated homeroom time for all levels to support student/teacher relationships; independence and interactions, and student agency. Homeroom time at the end of the day allows us to close the learning loop and reflect on our personal and academic goals. We also implemented a school-wide Genius Hour time to authenticly support open inquiry, passion-driven learning, and cultivate a sense of purpose. Genius Hour is also a framework where all learners can be creative and challenge their own learning. We wanted to more inclusive and offer extracurricular, guided inquiry opportunities to all students, therefore, we introduced clubs into the middle of the day schedule.