Empty Rhetoric and Other Sources of Inspiration

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Every school district and academic campus has one. Every business and place of employment does too. Some organizations are fiercely dedicated to it, while other groups don’t even know what it is. It may only be a bunch of a words, but a great mission statement can be a powerful thing. While it’s true that actions speak louder than words, sometimes a little bit of empty rhetoric can be a valuable source of inspiration.

A good mission statement is not a list of what you do – it’s a call to action. When an institution’s vision becomes just another document hanging on the wall, it loses the power to inspire change and influence action. A solid vision and a clear sense of purpose established from day one builds a foundation, sets guiding principles, establishes accountability, and unites all stakeholders in a common endeavor. However, it is all contingent on leadership because that shared vision must be used to drive the decision making process.

A good mission statement does not have to be anything complex or radically different. Simple is good. It just has to include goals that are tangible, real, and wholly executable. The vision of an academic environment must be student-centered. Let’s face it, without students there is not much of a point to education. A mission statement that becomes overly flowery or trapped in the prism of an unattainable dogma will ultimately interfere with it’s original intent. Eliciting cynicism, sending mixed messages, or proposing unobtainable goals are recipes for disaster.

A good mission statement resonates with all stakeholders. In educational environments there are a wide variety of interested parties with even more diverse ideas and agendas. Having a shared undertaking unites all involved with similar aspirations.  Often times, mission statements look almost identical among schools and that is fine, as long as the ideas proposed are customized for the individual needs of the given academic community. What truly matters is that the vision set forth is constantly discussed, referred back to, and includes clear actions that can be demonstrated daily.

A good mission statement is the plan for an adventure. Visions need visionaries; leaders to turn a bunch of words into a worthwhile devotion. Take initiate. Sell the message. Make everyone aware of your school’s purpose. Make people want to sip the Kool-Aid. Your school or district has likely already established a mission statement prior to your arrival. If you don’t like their message, then create your own personal mission statement that puts students at the center, has a clear sense of purpose, and loaded with ideas that you can put into action everyday. Sure, it will just be a bunch of words, but make that little bit of empty rhetoric the reason behind what you do everyday.

Thanks to the following Twitter users for their inspiration and insight:

Carolyn Durley – @okmbio
Tom Whitford – @twhitford
Brian Zink – @Brian_Zink
Sara Kidner – @sarakidner
R.T Chidiac – @RChids
Tony Sinanis – @Cantiague_Lead
Amy Mayer – @FriedTechnology
Mary Cantwell – @scitechyEDU
Beth Sanders – @MsSandersTHS

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