What if MISSION were Spelled W-H-Y?

What is your mission?

Why is your vocation important?

Does that story align with the work you do every day? If so, how do you connect your purpose with institutional purpose?

These questions bring to mind a story. In 1997 my parents were still in the early years of their divorce and my mother was preparing to be married again. In addition, a fire consumed my house that would leave us living with family for months. All the while, I was blessed with a first grade teacher who embodied in loco parentis, Mrs. Joan Andrews.

I can recall the days following our house fire in detail. Mrs. Andrews was fully aware of my reason for being absent and the day I returned to school she invited our class out to the courtyard.

She arranged us in a circle.

“Kevin,” she said, “can you share with the class your story from the last few days?”

At that moment, Mrs. Andrews believed it was more important to spend time as a community supporting me than to do worksheets in the classroom. She saw time given over to social and emotional development as an investment aligned to her vocation and sense of mission.

Mrs. Andrews kept a watchful eye throughout my entire first grade year. She took moments to ask critical questions to ensure that I was stable. She also continually communicated with my parents with my best interest at heart. Over the last 21 years, Mrs. Andrews has attended sporting events, my birthday and graduation parties, and my wedding. Mrs. Andrews’ mission has been ubiquitous in my life.

What has been Mrs. Andrews’ mission? What might have been her why for being a teacher? Could those answers be one in the same?

Simon Sinek in his best-selling book Start With Why diagnoses the secret to success. That is, starting with why. Further, he states that people do not buy what you do, but rather why you do it. At the heart of impactful work is a deep meaning for why that work exists.

What if we extended that thought?

Sinek’s theory came to mind recently during my participation in Re:Frame + Re:Charge with Christian Talbot, former Head of Malvern Prep and founder of Basecamp and Viktor Venson, founder of FutureSculpt, we discussed how mission might be a compass for designing the future of learning. Powerful.

What if mission were spelled w-h-y? If we agree with Sinek, then people don’t buy what you do, they buy your mission. Is your institution living its mission? Are the people within your institution living its mission?

Encourage yourself and team to explore your mission and your why.

Enjoy the journey.

Mrs. Andrews after my high school graduation.
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