001: Power of Mission Statements

Value statements allow you to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with intention and confidence.

This is my first post in over a year of non-activity.  I started ‘Way of the Teacher’ with ideas of grander, looking to promote a brand rather than speak about what truly affects myself and other educators within the field of teaching.  As you may have surmised, without a clear focus on what really mattered, and without an ethos/mission to lean onto during the many distractions that happen in life, I stopped publishing early in the creation of this blog.

I now start this blog with a renewed vision for what I want to accomplish as an individual, a teacher, and as a student of education as a whole.  Here is my mission statement for this site and any content I publish moving forward:

As a husband, son, brother, friend, and educator, I aim to promote values and experiences within myself and others which align to a positive impact within the world around me.  In order, this equates to the following: 1) Support my wife in all her personal and professional pursuits; 2) Maintain a keen interest and curious attitude about the world around me through travel and reading; 3) Plan time to connect with and support my family abroad; 4) Develop and foster lasting friendships; and 5) Tirelessly endeavour to achieve excellence as an educator through study, practice, and reflection in order to create meaningful change in the lives of the children I work with.

This may appear to be a broad statement, but when we dig deep into the meaning of it we will find a focused set of what I value as an individual, yet this statement limits rigidity in order for me to be flexible when need be.  Simply put, this mission statement helps me focus on what is most important in my life so that anything outside of this can be considered, and discarded if needed.

The reason I’m sharing my mission statement on my first post is because I feel this is what we as educators are missing, especially those who enter the field of teaching only to drop out within 5 years.  A recent study indicated that, “Four out of 10 quit the profession within five years of qualifying” (Guardian, 2018).  I’m not trying to simplify the reasons for teachers leaving, but I truly believe that having a strong mission statement which an individual can hold onto can help one fight through the noise and chaos of the teaching profession.  In fact, having a mission statement at the ready for any high-stress, high-stakes profession can be of great benefit.

The idea of having a strong mission statement is nothing new.  Stephen Covey, author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ details this in the first two steps of becoming a highly effective person.  As a teacher, we are pulled from one direction to another.  Many of us will be teaching 30 children or more, many of whom will have specific needs, and the entire time we’re trying to support our children we have task and policy after task and policy put on us by administrators and government.  Seems a bit much, but in some instances this can be managed by having a mission statement.  Let me explain a recent event that happened in my life in which I had to lean on a previous mission statement of mine.

My wife was due for surgery, and the recovery was going to take some time.  Living abroad, we did not have family readily available to support her, and I was in the middle of a school term.  As any educator reading this will know, to request extended time off outside of maternity/paternity leave is difficult at best.  If I was to take the time off to support my wife, then this meant I could possibly lose my current teaching post.  This was a very stressful situation.  On top of this, I had a class of 25 children who were depending on me for upcoming assessments and reports.  However, my stress was limited by turning to my mission statement, similar to the one posted above.  The first part of my statement was that I would support my wife through everything.  This was the FIRST item on my statement, meaning this took precedent over everything else.  Although I was stressed about having to tell my Headteacher that I needed to take the time off because I was unsure of the consequences, I knew I had to do it because my wife was, and still is, the most important person in my life.  Luckily, my Headteacher understood the situation, and because the children I teach were part of my value statement, I provided a possible solution to my Headteacher.  He approved my time off.

The story above could have ended much differently.  However, I felt confident that if I was to be let go, I would find another teaching post.  Why?  Teachers are in demand, and I’m confident in my ability because I hold dearly to my mission statement which includes constantly studying, practicing, and reflecting on my teaching practice.  My qualifications are up-to-date and my knowledge of current practices in education is strong.  Would it have been stressful if I lost my position?  Yes.  Could I have managed it?  Yes.

The power of a mission statement is simple, and if you only take one thing away from this post it should be this – Value statements allow you to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with intention and confidence.  If you are asked to do something you don’t agree with, lean on your value statement.  If what you’re asked does not align with your statement in some way, challenge the ask, but bring a solution to the table which does align with your statement.  Use your value statement to offer confident responses and concrete solutions.

If you’re interested in developing a value statement, but feel you need some guidance, the following website can provide some solid inspiration (I’m not paid for this reference, I just think it’s a good place to start): Fast Company Personal Mission Statements of 5 Famous CEOs.

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