Friday, 11 November 2011 21:50

Wrapping Up This Blog Series (Part 10 of New "Establishing a Sense of Purpose" Blog Series)

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Wrapping Up This Blog SeriesOver the past couple months I have described various ways in which I try to establish a sense of purpose with my students so that they understand why committing themselves to academic pursuits matters and so that they find their work meaningful and relevant to their present and future lives. Specifically, there are four main tools I use to try to establish purpose.

The first is the classroom aim, a topic I focused on during Parts 2 and 3 in this series. Because the aim establishes a group’s highest priorities, drives decisions, and determines goals, it is the starting point in our efforts to establish purpose. In his book Improving Student Learning: Applying Deming’s Quality Principles in Classrooms, Superintendent Lee Jenkins describes the aim as the bull’s-eye of the organizational target.


Since reading Jenkins’ terrific book many years ago, I have envisioned the other three tools I use to establish purpose as rounding out this organizational target, with each successive ring advancing our cause in a distinct way.

The class mission statement is the second tool and the second ring of the target. Most of the blog series has described the power and utility of a class mission statement. I spent so much time focusing on this tool because I genuinely believe it to be the most powerful tool teachers possess when it comes to connecting daily learning activities to important future purposes; establishing an expectation level for student work, effort, and behavior; building a confident mindset in our students; and emphasizing valuable habits of character.

I did not feature the other two tools in this blog series because I have written extensively about them in the past. The Tower of Opportunity (described in the “Other Projects” section of this site) provides a powerful visual metaphor that helps teachers connect daily learning activities to higher life roles and responsibilities, and Personal Mission Statements (featured in Teaching Tips 17-19) afford children the chance to set meaningful, well-rounded goals that can motivate them to achieve at higher and higher levels.

In addition, I describe all four of these tools in great detail in my book Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8.

Taken together, these tools form a complete organizational target.  Starting from the aim and moving outward to Personal Mission Statements, we proceed inside-out from the general to the specific, from the group level to the individual level.  Each successive ring advances our cause to establish a sense of purpose in our classrooms.  Establishing purpose requires that we commit ourselves to making a consistent effort to help students find meaning in their work.  We achieve this objective by connecting classroom learning to higher, worthwhile purposes that kids value.
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