What If We Were Guided by Joy?

imagesAt most schools I work with, we spend at least some time “parsing the vision”, highlighting key words and phrases in a schools guiding documents: mission, vision and philosophy statements, key learning goals, portraits of the graduate, etc.  Why? We find that many of these documents contain words and phrases around which there is a dissonance of understanding.  The words are there, but we don’t actually know what they mean, or agree on the meaning, or know how they might be implemented or reflected in what we do each day.

photoI had a powerful and extremely active day with the combined faculty and staff, and several trustees and students, at Holy Child School in Potomac, MD today.  With a new head of school, and in a highly competitive private school environment, Holy Child is ready and eager to really establish their unique identity.  What better way than to begin a process of engaged, transparent unwrapping of their collective vision about how to best meet the needs of the girls they serve?

I had one big takeaway from the day, and won’t bury it in a long post.  In parsing their guiding documents, approval voting on understanding, and filtering for truly unique elements of their learning environments, one word shouted out at us: Joy. What a fantastic word around which to build a school! What a wonderful word to debate and nurture, prune and support!  What a great concept to focus an organizational vision upon, to differentiate from other learning options that families in the area might have.

Does Joy have a place in your school’s vision? If not, why not? What other words that evoke a similarly wonderful set of emotions in us might be appropriate for your school?  And are you really willing to live that vision, to place something like Joy above other more convenient measures of a school, like college admissions statistics, student-teacher ratio, or tuition levels?

I am “joyful” to have spent the day at Holy Child! And another of my frequent shout-outs to our friends at Mt. Vernon Institute for Innovation; I am wearing out their DEEP DT Playbook slides as we find such a wide use for design thinking-based activities.

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