Friday, 30 September 2011 21:50

The Most Powerful Move We Can Make (Part 4 of New "Establishing a Sense of Purpose" Blog Series)

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Introduction to This Blog Series:  Establishing a sense of purpose is one of the most important responsibilities teachers face at the beginning of each new school year. Over the next several weeks I will share a variety of ideas that I have used to help students better understand why it is important to come to school every day, work hard, and learn as much as possible.


The Most Powerful Move Teachers Can Make to Establish a Sense of Purpose in the Classroom (Part 4 of the Series):  Once you have chosen your Overall Classroom Aim (see Parts 2 and 3 of this Blog Series), the next step in the process of establishing a sense of purpose with your students is to create a class mission statement so that you can refer to it throughout the year for guidance, support, and inspiration. Writing a class mission statement and revisiting it with your students frequently is the single most powerful move teachers can make to establish a sense of purpose.

  In Teaching Tips 5-7 (which I presented last year around this time), I described what a class mission statement is, the rationale for creating one, the process I use to create one with my students, and how I use it as an indispensible reference point all throughout the year.

My intention in this blog post is not to repeat this information. Instead, my purpose is to share my classroom’s brand new mission statement, analyze it, and describe how we have used it so far this year to establish purpose. I will begin my analysis and description in this post and then continue next week. Our brand new statement is displayed below.

“Making Great Futures for Ourselves; Doing Great Things for Others”

TTQ Mission Statement

We are Team Total Quality. We are a community of smart, happy learners and strong leaders. We are committed to achieving the highest standard of excellence in education. You can count on us to be a serious, hard-working class and to make our school a better place. We are determined to accomplish everything.

We are in third grade now, but we are already looking ahead to the future. We come to school on time ready to learn so that we can be what we want to be. The work we do matters. It helps us get smarter and prepares us for when we grow up. We want to graduate from college, get spectacular jobs, earn money, reach our goals in life, and make a difference in the world. Learning makes us successful.

We do not want to be just OK. We want to be the best of the best. We always expect our class to try our hardest and never give up so that we can keep moving to higher levels. We use our time well, make intelligent decisions, and accomplish extraordinary things.

We are all great people, and together we make an amazing team. Our work, effort, and behavior get better every day. We strive to create a fun, supportive, and advanced atmosphere. We love working hard on difficult challenges. We try to be outstanding at listening and self-discipline. We want to be inspiring role models for younger students. We don’t do the least; we do the most.

As a group of helpful, thoughtful battery-chargers, we care about one another and treat everyone as a trusted friend. We care about being proud, honorable people who act with character and integrity. We are active and positive, friendly and kind, honest and respectful, fair and giving, organized and responsible.

The first thing I would like to point out is the short phrase that precedes the actual mission statement. I have used this introductory phrase for the last few years, and I love how it captures the twin goals of helping ourselves and helping others. It is easy for young children to focus exclusively on their own wants and needs, and it is important to highlight the importance of service as often as possible.

Our team name is the second thing I would like to discuss. Many of the ideas that I have described in my Teaching Tips and blog posts, as well as those that form the foundation of my book Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, originate from the literature about quality control. Specifically, the ideas come from a body of work known as “Total Quality Management.” I love the phrase “total quality” because I think it correctly conveys the idea that if a group of people wants to achieve quality, then everyone in the group shares the responsibility of ensuring that each aspect of the group’s work is done at the highest possible level. In short, it takes a “total effort” to achieve the lofty goals a group creates for itself.

The name “Team Total Quality” captures this idea well. Frequently, I explain to my students that in order to produce quality work, many things need to happen. We need to work hard, listen well, follow directions, work together, take pride in what we are doing, ask for help when we need it, and maintain a high level of focus from the beginning of a project or activity to the end. It isn’t enough to do just one or two of these things well. We need to do all of them. Thus, the team name, itself, becomes an important reference point to help students understand what it takes to achieve quality.

Next week I will continue analyzing and describing our brand new class mission statement.

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