Staring up the steps and stepping up the stairs
An IB teacher’s reflection on our school’s new mission statement
After breaking two bones in my foot in the autumn, I have started a course of physiotherapy. This has involved learning how to walk properly again, rolling forwards from the heel to the toes and climbing stairs to regain mobility. Knowing why I am doing this helps me to tolerate the slight discomfort of plodding around the block. But how is this story connected to our school’s new mission statement? In his famous TED talk Simon Sinek asserted “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” It is important for schools to share their mission and link it to policies, curriculum decisions and everyday activities to help people understand the school’s motivations. It is also important for individuals to link their organisation’s mission to their own actions. In the words of Vaclav Havel, “It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” So it seems that both recovering from an injury and fulfilling a mission statement involve stepping up the stairs.
Next month I will be introducing a 40-hour research project to the International Baccalaureate Diploma students of Grade 11. They will choose a topic, agree on a research question with their supervisor before collecting and analysing source materials. By November, they will have written a 4000-word research essay. I can already identify aspects of our mission statement that will help me to explain the task to our students: “love learning”, “show commitment”. It is very important that students choose a topic that they are interested in because spending 40 hours on this task will require commitment and motivation. The project is an example of self-directed learning that we describe in our mission statement as “We shape our learning paths”. I will “demonstrate integrity” by teaching students how to cite other people’s ideas in an academically honest way. The IB assesses the final essay and awards students for critical thinking and for reflecting on any problems they have encountered during the research. Both criteria are relevant to our mission statement. Due to the pandemic, students will need to learn to communicate remotely with their supervisor and to administer questionnaires or interviews online. Underpinning all of this, they will be learning how to “embrace change”.
The most important word in the mission statement is “We” because it refers to all members of the school community. Everyone at our school will have ideas on how we can fulfil our mission.
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Edward Parker, IB Diploma Programme, International Secondary School