As summer draws to a close and another school year is about to begin, the anticipation and excitement are at an all time high. Labor Day weekend signals the end of the summer for everyone. It is a day that recognizes the labor movement and the contributions that workers have made for the strength and prosperity of our country. For teachers, it also means the start of another school year, going back to work and educating the eager minds of tomorrow. At a recent gathering of family and friends I got into a conversation about why I wanted to go into education. As an administrator or a teacher that is certainly, "the million dollar question." I believe that working in education is a calling. It requires a certain desire, passion and commitment to the youth of our country and to the future that will exist for all of us. In answering the question "Why did I go into education," the answer is simple.... "I am on a mission."
In business, in school and in life, it is important to have a mission statement. It is "the" phrase that people use to rally around, to garner support, energy, and excitement. Some mission statements are long, explaining the purpose of the organization. For example, Barnes and Noble's mission statement is four sentences, describing everything they do. The Ted (Ted Talks) mission statement is short and sweet, "Spreading Ideas." John Maxwell minds us that the difficulty is that sometimes mission statements are written reminders of what the company ought to do, rather than a reflection of what the company actually does.
There is no greater mission than the one we have as educators. The future of our country depends on us as teachers and administrators every day. My personal and professional mission statements have blended throughout the years because I believe so strongly in what we do in our profession. The statements have evolved because I have evolved as a person, we have evolved as a school. The mission statement of our school has become a tagline...easy to remember and can be interpreted in many ways....."Knowledge. Spirit. Promise." Every day, I want to live a life filled with Knowledge, Spirit and Promise." I desire the same for my staff and for my school. We want to provide an education that fills students with Knowledge, Spirit and Promise...every day.
In the book Start. Right Now. by Jeff Zoul, Todd Whitaker and Jimmy Casas they discuss the importance of "Knowing the Way" as a leader and the value of a mission statement to help "Know the Way" for your classroom or school. In discussing mission statements, they quote Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey says, "writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully and to align your behavior with your beliefs."
As we enter another school year ask yourself these questions:
1) What is your purpose?
2) What is your belief?
3) Why do you get out of bed every morning?
4) What influence do you want to have on others?
5) How can you contribute to the collective "mission" of your school or business?
In a few short days I am going to have students that will enter our building thirsting for Knowledge and wanting to impart theirs....every day. I will have students ready to become part of the Spirit of the school by showing off theirs....every day. I will have students full of Promise ready to shine their light on this world.....every day. I believe it. Time for me to wake up! School is starting! My mission continues. What is yours?
Live out your mission statement. Our students are counting on you! Have a great year!
The first week of every August my family and I vacation at the Jersey Shore. It is a wonderful time together relaxing, enjoying the beauty and splendor of the ocean. However, it also signals for me, as a building Principal, what lies ahead in the upcoming weeks. Very shortly the staff and students will be coming back for what will be another exciting year at Pequannock Valley School, filled with endless opportunities for growth and success.
Every morning after I finish my run I take a walk up to the beach and just sit and look out at the ocean. It stretches as far as the eye can see, appearing to meet up with the sky. My curiosity and imagination run wild as I think about what could possibly be out there....beyond the horizon. Of course, my young kids ask me "Dad are there sharks out there?" "Is that where the ocean stops?" "Those ships out there, where are they going?" To them, it simply looks like a line that has formed between the ocean and the sky and like in "The Truman Show" it just ends if you were to get to the end of it.
To me, the horizon represents opportunity. It represents possibilities. It represents hope. As we head into a new school year it is a symbol of encouragement. It is something I am going to keep my eye on as I prepare for my students and staff to arrive. Sailors use the term "keep your eye on the horizon" to steady their ships for a long journey. In finance, it means keeping an eye on your long term goals and results. In education, I feel that keeping your eye on the horizon means reaching beyond what may seem unreachable to bring your school/students to places they have never been. When you realize the goals that you have for your school/students are possible, that horizon can extend further than you imagined and new horizons that may have seemed unattainable now become clearer.
What is beyond your horizon? What goals do you have as you begin your journey into a new school year? Are you ready to explore new opportunities with your students? Are you prepared to push your school/or students beyond what they think is attainable? If so, how are you going to do it? What course have your charted? Each day there is a new horizon and every day we have the chance to make our goals and dreams a reality....not just for us but for our students and our schools. As Captain Jack Sparrow said in Pirates of the Caribbean, "Bring me that horizon!"
Richard M. Hayzler
A life long educator and current Principal of Pequannock Township High School in NJ, Rich is excited to share his ideas and thoughts about education and how we can change the world for our students and our staff.