Every school, organization, or business has a common vision and mission. A vision of who are we? What do we believe? And a mission – How does each individual member of our community work towards a united vision. Our classrooms are no different. While some classrooms may not initially choose a vision and mission, having a classroom mission statement can be uniting, community-building, and keep students (and teachers) focused on an over-arching goal or belief.
Living in the “AND”
In this moment, it is the evening before I return to school after an extended break. I head back in the morning, and I must admit my anxiety is Alert Level 9. I love, love my job AND still, it’s hard to breathe. That “and” is something I am working to be more comfortable with.
- I love my students AND set clear boundaries about working on weekends.
- I believe I have the best job AND be anxious about a change in routine.
- I don’t want to have this tough conversation with a coworker AND I can do hard things.
- Our school is a wonderful place AND we still actively work to make it more inclusive for students.
For me, “AND” is learning to live in the grey, holding space for multiple truths.
Reflection in the Classroom
Heading back into our classrooms, it’s the ideal time to reflect on our classrooms, our united mission, as well as, where the “ANDs” exist. This reflection isn’t just for us, but also for students. Offering students the time and space to think about what their classroom is, how they feel in the space, and their desires for the future matters. It reminds students that they matter – their choices, their feelings, their words.
We know that NO classroom is perfect. Regardless, our students are SMART and if we ask them what a “perfect” classroom might entail, they have ideas.
Read-Aloud: Laying the Groundwork
Together read What If Everybody Did That?. Connect the text to your classroom and ask students to brainstorm (individually) their idea of a “Perfect Classroom” on a sticky note. Students may want to use multiple sticky notes (sounds like, looks like, makes me feel, includes) or you might just ask students to share a single idea.
Then, as a class read the stickies aloud. Allow students the chance to add-on, reflect, and ask questions. Remember this is a no-judgement zone, so if you are feeling defensive, take a breath. These are students’ feelings. We want to hear them, honor them, and learn more. With your students’ help, start grouping ideas by similar theme. (Note – The themes I used may not be the same themes you use in your classroom. You will need to play it by ear based on the responses from your students.)
I typed up all the ideas to send out to families because oh the hearts of my friends – they were perfect AND some of the responses stung. That’s right. Some of the statements made me cringe. The ones about “a little math” or “learning is Ms. W talking”. Yikes. Still, if I want to do better, be better – as a teacher and learner – I need honest feedback. My students delivered.
Classroom Mission Statement
Lastly, together as a class, generate a updated (or initial) classroom mission statement from what students shared about. For us, our class mission statement included:
- Who we are
- What matters to us
- How we want to feel in our classroom
- What choices need to happen to make #3 possible
After you’ve written your mission statement, choose a time for it to be a part of your daily routine. Post it outside your classroom, share it with families. Over the coming weeks, continue to refer to this mission statement. If this is what we believe about our classroom and school, our actions and choices need to work toward this ideal. If we create a classroom mission statement and never revisit it or reflect on it, it was a fruitless effort.
While each classroom in our school creates a mission statement at the very beginning of the year, coming back to tweak, rewrite, or add nuances to a mission later in the year is powerful. It allows for the mission to be representative of your community of learners. It’s honoring what works for you and your students AND allows you all to recalibrate for the second half of the year.
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