Friday, 21 October 2011 21:50

Raising the Bar (Part 7 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. Throughout this blog series 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.


This week: Raising the Bar (Part 7 of the Series)   


This week we take a close look at the third paragraph of the Class Mission Statement that my third graders and I wrote back in September. As I have been saying throughout this blog series, a mission statement is an indispensable tool that we need to take full advantage of in order to help our students understand why it is so important to come to school every day and work hard.

Last week I wrote that one of the primary benefits of a class mission statement is its ability to help teachers connect daily learning activities to important future purposes. A second important benefit is that a mission statement enables teachers to establish an expectation level - for our work, our effort, and our behavior. The third paragraph (shown below) does just that.

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.

The words in this paragraph are powerful, and they will resonate with students. In class discussions my students frequently cite phrases such as, “we do not want to be just OK” and “we want to be the best of the best.” These words take on greater meaning as we discuss our mission statement every Friday as part of our morning routine. Over time, what may begin as my expectation becomes a class expectation. Ideally, it becomes a personal expectation held by every member of our team.

One of the most powerful words in this paragraph is the word expect found in sentence three. Last Friday I shared with my students that there is a big difference between hoping to achieve great things and expecting to achieve great things. When we expect maximum effort, we are more likely to hold ourselves to higher standards and work with greater determination and urgency.

Finally, I would like to highlight the phrase “accomplish extraordinary things” that ends the paragraph. I emphasized last week the importance of including phrases that are “focused, yet flexible.” This is one of them. Yes, we all want to achieve extraordinary things, but what that means is different for each of us. Some of us may strive to excel in sports, others in art, still others in science. The specific areas in which children choose to pursue excellence matter, of course, but what matters more is that, as teachers, we are creating a mindset in our students and creating a classroom environment that values the pursuit of excellence.

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