MISSION STATEMENT KEEPS ONE FOCUSSED
My mission statement grew from a leadership program conducted by Dr Colin Moyle of Deakin University (Geelong, Victoria, Australia) in the early 1980’s. Dr Moyle in emphasising the importance of direction and surety of track through life challenged us each to develop a mission statement of 25 words or less. I gave this a lot of thought and developed the following:
To fulfil and be fulfilled in organisational mode – family, work, recreation;
To acquit my responsibilities with integrity;
To work with a smile in my heart.
This statement was and is at the base of all my emails and on the reverse of my business card. it has for me been a reminder, guidance and a focus.
Do others have statements of mission or purpose? I would strongly suggest that all educators consider developing a succinct but strong statement of mission or purpose,
TWO KEY CONSIDERATIONS
As a principal over time, it seemed to me two things (among others) were important.
1. It was of critical importance to separate the personal from the professional in terms of relationships. I feel it impossible to be a good boss or empathic leader if those one os leading are one’s personal ‘buddy’ friends and mates. Separation can enhance respect and make leadership easier.
My advice to all teachers is to consider the need for this professional/personal separation.
2. I felt it important to be a person who led by doing and not by saying. Directing others without being prepared to go there oneself does little to enhance leadership. It is far more important to be respected than liked.
It is ‘doing’ not merely ‘saying’ that is so important and too often overlooked .
ARE CHILDREN LIKE GAS BOTTLES?
Some years ago, a group of Assistant Principals visited a gas works in Darwin. Their guide said that there was similarity between his job and theirs. His job was to oversee the return of empty gas bottles, their filling and redistribution for use within the community.
He said teachers and school leaders had a similar task. They oversaw the arrival of new children starting school. Children as ‘new starters’ were like empty gas cylinders who had to be filled with knowledge and understanding as they progressed up the grades and through the years. They would leave school ‘full’ of knowledge and go forth to serve the community was his proposition.
That analogy gave me much food for thought.
What do you think of such an analogy?
TECHNOLOGY NOT A TEACHING SUBSTITUTE
It is important that technology in classrooms and schools should be appreciated. It is important that teachers and students share teaching and learning opportunities, where these are enhanced by the use of technology and equipment available. However, technological tools should never be allowed to stand in the place of the teacher.
It can be all too easy for teachers to recycle from direct interface with students, preferring instead to establish communications with learners through software packages available to support learning. Using attachments like blackboard, Skype, Scootle, and a myriad of other learning aids can help when it comes to refining and extending student learning. These devices must be under the control of teachers and structured in the way they are used to support student learning. It can be all too easy for teachers to hand pass their role in student learning development to the point of becoming detached.
FRENETIC WORRY FOR NOTHING
It seems to me that educators are on the go and so immersed within the busy-work of our profession, there is no time to draw breath, relax and consider our accomplishments. There is little time for self-appreciation or appreciating fellow educators or students with whom we might be working.
So much of what we do is about administrivia that does little to support real educational effort. Justification is too often the order of the day and often to little avail. No sooner is one set of paperwork accountabilities and compliances completed than we have to move to the next. We stress out, and for what real purpose. There is a need re-position and re-set priorities so they focus on our children and students, not simply on justifying our position as occupational members
THE NEWEST STAFF KNOW THE MOST
One of my discoveries as an educator and member of various organisations, is that of realising that the many recently arrived members of any group, purport to be the most knowledgeable about that organisation. They often reflect a ‘know it all’ attitude to institutions they join. That may be a manifestation of insecurity or uncertainty on their part; they want to prove they are up to the mark! Nevertheless the ‘don’t tell me’ brush-off that can be given is irksome.
Some come believing they are saviours appointed to lead ‘their’ schools and workplaces forward, discounting and peremptorily dismissing what has gone before. As leaders, they tend to consign the history and traditions of their new organisation to the archives or waste bin. Many have the belief that those who were there before them are a threat and need to be shed as quickly as possible. ‘My way or the highway’ along with ‘you are on MY bus and if not, you are off it’ are approaches they quickly move to embed into the thinking of staff.
My hope would be that none of us ever experience such situations. Sadly, that hope is faint. We can however, ensure these sad, selfish characteristics are never a part of our professional make-up.
NEED FOR TEACHING METHODS WITHIN TRAINING
Should teaching methodology be part of teacher training or is it more important for preservice teachers to graduate with Bachelor and Masters level degrees with practical needs catching up later? That has become what should never have been a question.
We seem to have entered an era wherein the training institute hands preservice teachers a degree. On graduation they enter schools where, with careful coaching and mentoring, they are taught to teach – often by people with far less paper qualifications. That is just not good enough. Training institutions should do the job that for too many years has been totally neglected. Teaching graduates should be able to teach. While support is important, no school should have to carry staff to the extent of these persons becoming hindrances and burdens within their schools.
THE BUCK STOPS HERE – WITH ME
Be we teachers in training, teachers new or experienced, school leaders or those with system responsibilities, we should always be accountable for our actions. There is a tendency in life to say ‘who, me’ when it comes to accountability for actions. Shirking responsibilities for the outcome of our actions is a devious and unprofessional habit. To look for support and understanding is natural, but to try and blame others for our actions is wrong.
Professional character and strength is built when we accept responsibility for our wrong decisions, apologise, try and put things to rights, then move on. We should never dump our decisions and actions on others; the blame game is wrong.
The best example to set to children, students and those we lead, occurs when we own the outcomes of our actions. This builds self-respect and respect vested in us by others.
HOMEWORK: BLESSING OR BANE?
Homework is an issue that has been doing the rounds of education for decades. There are educators who believe in homework’s importance, others who would like to discount it altogether. Similarly, some parents appreciate homework while others would like to see it given the big flick. Those in favour of homework believe it reinforces and consolidates learning through extra practice that happens away from school.
Opposition to homework comes from those who think ‘enough is enough’; that beyond the school day, children should be freed from learning tasks. Some parents and commentators suggest that homework is the teacher’ s way of handing their teaching responsibilities to parents.
What do you think? Should homework policies be supported or discounted?
WORK SHOULD BE MARKED
It can be easy to set assignments for primary children and secondary students, then overlook the marking of what they produce. The freneticism of the school day (and week, month etc) makes for marking oversight. Without assessment, the work to students is not completed and finished, They are left hanging in the air.
Should this omission become too frequent, the efforts put in by students will fall away sharply. To overlook marking is demotivating for children and older students alike.
Students appreciate comments and you can’t go past stickers and small tangibles for primary school students. Self marking happens but personalising marking is so important.