I had a great conversation with a group of students last week. The power and significance of the conversation resonated for me in a way that made me reflect on how we in education can sometimes become unintentionally disconnected from our true intentions. Sometimes I think we become so focused on what we believe is in the best interest of our students that we forget to ask them what they want. In education, we are a very caring group, we dedicate our life's work to ensuring student success. This deep caring can at times narrow our focus and lead us to make decisions without consulting the very ones we work for.
A recent educational tweet by Leadership and Learning (@LeadAndLearn) encapsulates my thoughts: “It's important to ask the question: Why do we exist, are we the best we can be & why should parents send their kids to our school?" This strikes a chord because it speaks to the heart of our work: providing a service to our community. As educators, we exist to serve. We should never lose sight of this.
The work we do as educators needs to be distributed proportionally. We need to fuel industry and economic needs and at the same time, support, nurture and develop cultural, passionate and creative needs of our students. If we just provide for the needs of society, we lose the individual voice of our young.
The conversation I had with our kids was a thoughtful discussion about our school's Mission, Vision, Values and Goals. The focus group was a cross section of grades, backgrounds, and genders and was a fair representation of our school. Here is what they had to say:
Student Focus Group Responses (From the mouths of students!)
The school MISSION statement should be a powerful statement about why you come to school everyday. If you were in charge of defining the school mission statement what would you change about it?
- A Mission statement should be more about the kids and less of what the school offers.
- It should inspire creativity and learning in life.
- It should speak to feeling safe and being safe at school.
- It should address acceptance.
- It should include aspects of health and fitness.
- It should include healthy living; healthier food with more motivation from the teachers.
- It should speak to peer acceptance and equality for all students (LGBTQ and BASES)
- It should speak to being safe to express ourselves; free from being bullied.
- We should be spoken to like individuals not a group of stereotypical teenagers.
- It should address now more then the future, because the future is now.
- It should speak to having good morals and being a good person. You could be the smartest person in the world with the most money, but without character and compassion, you will not be loved. Morals and being a good human being are what matters!
- Once we decide on a statement, we should actively promote it. No one knows it.
- More action, Less talking.
Does our school VISION meet your expectations for what you envision for your own success? What would you change?
- The vision should show that students will be supported on what they want to pursue. Not an outline of what one is expected to do.
- It should include a greater emphasis on life skills.
- It should include leadership opportunities for all ages.
- Our vision should speak to teaching in a way that caters to all students.
- It should include being respectful and caring.
- It should speak to student’s social and emotional health.
- It must include aspects of developing creativity
- We need to raise awareness of our vision and mission statements.
Do our school VALUES align with what you value? Is there something you would add, change or delete?
- Make the values more understandable and student based because at the end of the day it’s for students to understand.
- There should be more student-teacher interaction.
- Students need more freedom in the say of their education.
- It needs to show the need to respect everyone.
- Be more specific and less broad.
- Value GSA (LGBTQ) – needs to speak to being be more accepting.
- Needs to state the importance of having a safe environment and feeling welcome.
- Needs to indicate an emphasis on individuality – mold into a successful/unique person.
- Should indicate valuing cultural diversity – appreciation and acceptance of all cultures.
- Needs to address the need to value and respect teachers.
- Should indicate the value of health and fitness and participation on sports teams and clubs.
What do you think we need to work on as a school? If given the opportunity to define school GOALS, what would you say we as a school need to work on?
- Our school needs more diversity of extracurricular activities and clubs so students can express themselves better.
- We need to work on building stronger connections, both student to student and teacher to student.
- We need find ways to help students make better choices in their life. To find ways for students to connect their passions to school and life afterwards.
- We need to work on finding ways for students to feel more accepted in school society.
- We need a better definition of what it means to be safe at school. Safety is more than free from physical harm… The school needs to work on being safe for freedom of self-expression.
- We need a greater emphasis on eco-friendly events and caring for our environment.
- We need a goal that addresses healthy living and healthy eating habits.
- We need to make teaching and learning more fun.