Walking the Talk: Living Your School’s Mission

Authentic Application of Guiding Statements

As I transitioned to my new project with ORIGINS Education in Beijing (www.originsedu.cn), I was inspired by their Guiding Statements: Inspired to Wonder, Challenged to Explore, Supported to Create and Empowered to Connect. 

I have a passion and curiosity about making connections between a school’s Guiding Statements and what I see when I walk around its campus(es). In my workshops on leadership and management for schools, there is an underlying theme about how leaders and managers can live their school’s Guiding Statements. What’s the point of having words that state what you do (mission), what you aspire to (vision), and what your core values are if they are not going to be used in your daily work or guide your strategic thinking?

An Ethical Obligation to ‘Walk the Talk’

As educators and leaders, we all have an ethical obligation to our community to make sure that what we state about who we are as a school (mission), what we are striving to achieve (vision) and how we operationalise this (our values) is evident in what we say and do. As leaders and managers in schools, it is our responsibility to help make connections between everything we do and the school’s Guiding Statements.

As a Head of School, I felt it was important to have one meeting per quarter for the entire staff so that we could discuss these connections. These meetings achieved several goals, aside from the obvious where we took time to ‘unpack’ our Guiding Statements and actually try to understand them: as a collective, we learned more about various activities throughout different parts of the school. At the same time, we were documenting evidence on how our school was ‘living our Guiding statements’, as well as generating inter-disciplinary links and cross grade level connections. I still remember our Grade 3 students sharing their learning on the digestive system with the Grade 12 Biology class as their provocation, a direct result of the IBDP Biology teacher sitting in the same group as the Grade 3 class teacher at one of these meetings!

Encouraging all staff (academic and administration/support) to connect their daily work to the Guiding Statements helped us all ‘walk the talk’ about the purpose and direction of our school, often generated ‘teachable moments’ and helped make our work even more meaningful.

As teachers, we believe that we should foster authentic connections for our curriculum, and as leaders and managers in schools, authenticity is where you make a conscious decision to live your school’s mission, and you ‘walk your talk’. As a leader, I have always believed that it is my duty to help all members of the school community develop a shared understanding of who we were as a school, why we exist and what we were working towards. Our decision making processes include a step where we ask ourselves “how will this support or add value to our Guiding Statements?” It has now become a routine for me and I strive to walk the talk – to live the mission of not just my business, but for those I work for as a consultant.

Inspired to Wonder, Challenged to Explore, Supported to Create and Empowered to Connect : The more I read these words and use them in my day to day work at ORIGINS Education, the more powerful I believe that they are for 21st Century learning and ensuring that our students are prepared for the world beyond school – no matter what that looks like. Each day in my work for ORIGINS, I WONDER, EXPLORE, CREATE and CONNECT, supporting me in not just ‘saying’ but also ‘doing’: supporting me to ‘walk the talk.’