Ayla Gavins's blog

State the mission, stay the course

by Ayla Gavins, Principal at Mission Hill K-8 School, A Boston Public Pilot School in Boston, MA and Sizer Fellow with The Forum for Education and Democracy

I've visited more than a hundred schools in the course of my professional life, in the U.S.A. and abroad.  Although all were unique, very few of those schools had their very own, thriving cultures of learning.  Most had a mission statement of some sort posted on a wall or printed in a handbook.  Those brief statements, however, were usually non-specific and rarely reflected the life of the school.  

If a mission statement is to be taken seriously as a guide to the beliefs and practices of an institution, then each person within the institution must be aware of its principles.  The mission statement in a school should inform administrative decisions and come alive in teaching, learning, assessment, hiring, communications, expectations for students and adults, and the physical environment.

Knowing Names

"Hello, I was wondering how my son is doing at school today. He had a really rough morning before leaving the house." A parent called to inquire about her child on the second day of school. I responded with "Let me take a peek in his classroom. Hold on." She didn’t tell me her child’s name, but I knew it and where to find him. What I love about Mission Hill School is that I know everyone's name. That was written by one of our teachers in a recent newsletter column. That’s something I love too about our school community.

It’s always been part of our school culture to know each other well. It’s important to recognize that knowing one another does not happen by chance. There is intention behind building relationships and a place where children feel that they belong.

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