Mission Statements hardly ever inspire. They should. They can. But most don’t. Have you ever noticed the similarity from school to school, of the same jargon, vagaries, and stale language? If there were a proctor for school mission statements most would be accused of plagiarism. Mission statements too often speak in the soothing, humorless, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us- language of the market. Not of educators. They don’t speak in human voices but the homogenized language of the sales pitch. Mission statements take themselves too seriously by speaking in language that is distant, uninviting and abstract.

If the purpose and the guiding principles of a school are couched in platitudes, is it unusual that schools run the risk of becoming irrelevant?

Mission statements should be like haikus: lean, transparent without adjectives or excess. They should enliven, anchor, legitimize and affirm what a school believes in.

My favorite is a Swiss School that in 3 lines defines itself:

Start by reexamining the whole process. They offer the opportunity for all the stakeholders to articulate what matters in a school. Once, when in an accreditation year we went from class to class, challenging students to examine the mission, word by word, and gave them butcher block paper and colored markers to illustrate what it meant to them. We did the same with all 240 teachers. The closer you come to owning a mission the more likely it will guide and unify a community. We already have enough cookie cutter versions.




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