There is a great deal of talk now about ‘college and career readiness.’ It’s an MSIP standard and it’s at the heart of the educational policy debate at the national and state levels. Of course it’s important for our graduates to be ready for college (if that’s their choice) or career (if that’s their choice) at the time they walk across the stage. I would argue that it’s also our responsibility to prepare them to make that choice, and the staff at the high school is working hard to do this.
Since we value college and career readiness at the upper end of our educational process, there is a compelling temptation to ‘begin with the end in mind’ and describe the WHY for our entire school system as preparing students for college and career. This is an unfair oversimplification though, and we need to think both more broadly and more specifically about our mission as a district and purpose for each grade level and teaching position across the district.
While it is important to prepare students for college and career, what we’re really preparing them for is citizenship in our local, national and global communities. Having and using job skills is an important part of citizenship, but so is empathy for one’s neighbors; valuing the culture of the present and the past; and working cooperatively to make the home, the neighborhood and the world a better place. We teach these things in school, and teachers should never feel their time is wasted when they spend it developing these skills.
A few years ago the district developed a ‘destination postcard’ and identified our goal as “Each student ready for the next year by the end of every year.” I would maintain that this is our central WHY statement.
This issue of WHY is important because it provides greater meaning for what we do than the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ that we so frequently focus on. The video below describes it as the ‘golden circle’ that provides the sense of purpose for ourselves and the things we do. As educators we have a sense of purpose built in to our efforts that those in other professions don’t always get to share. While we all have days when we feel weighed down by the tasks and responsibilities that fill our days, we can see that we’re making a difference in the work our students do and the ways they grow while they’re in our classrooms. Finding ways to keep the WHY in the forefront of our thoughts as we work through the daily ‘what’ and ‘how’ of our business provides a powerful compass and helps us to remember the incredible value of our enterprise. We make sure each student is ready for the next year at the end of every year, and there is no more important work in the world than that...