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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

A New Take on Mission Statements

When I arrived in the Portola Valley School District almost two years ago, I inherited a mission statement, collaboratively created some years ago. It isn’t particularly flashy, just a typical mission statement that lives on the landing page of our website:

The Portola Valley School District provides an excellent education for all students. Capitalizing upon our unique partnership among teachers, support staff, parents, and community, we create powerful learning opportunities that challenge all students to: meet the District's standards of excellence, become ethical leaders in school and community, and make positive contributions to a diverse and changing world.

Having gone through the “Executive Leadership Coaching” (ELC) project, sponsored by the San Mateo County Office of Education and sponsors and presented by Pivot Learning, a recent activity in one of our learning sessions has me looking at that mission statement a little differently.

Pressed for a bit of time at our training two weeks ago, we discussed Warren Berger’s book, A More Beautiful Question. I have to admit – many of my colleagues have had the good fortune to read the book but I have not. However, the questioning strategies (also the content of another post this week) has me thinking – what if we do look at questions differently? Since we didn’t have time to fully analyze our mission statement at ELC, it made sense that I continue the conversation with a few colleagues.

The activity we were tasked with in ELC was to take our static mission statements and transform them into a more open-ended, fluid mission question that can still be ambitious. Funny how the activity assumed our mission was static (yes, as a matter of fact it is) and is ambitious (not so sure about that one).

By articulating the mission as a question, it better clarifies to our community and the outside world what we are striving for. It acknowledges room for growth and possibility, an opportunity for change and adaptability. Since we aren’t there yet at achieving our mission, here goes my first draft:

How might we provide an excellent education for all students?

How do we capitalize on our unique partnerships with teachers, support staff parents and the community?

How do we create powerful, challenging learning experiences for all students?

How might we become more ethical leaders in the school and community?

How can we make positive contributions to a diverse and changing world?

Certainly the work can start before the questions have answers, but the idea of taking statements and turning them into questions….I think there might be something to this! Wonder if my new role will be Chief Questioner?

Now, my challenge to you. What does your mission statement ask of you? On what journey are you embarking?

* reposted from LinkedIn blog - May 20, 2015

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