What is your school’s purpose? (exploring the purpose of The Neighborhood)

Week 2 in the New School Creation MOOC started today. The focus for this week is “purpose.” What is the distinct (or maybe even unique) purpose of your current or future school? This is the statement about why your school exists. It becomes a source of inspiration, direction, and helpful restriction (calling for us to resist deviating from that which is not our purpose). Schools often embrace certain practices, standards, policies and procedures because leaders assume that these are the things that all schools should or must have. However, if we sift those things through a focused purpose, we may well find that they are unnecessary or even unhelpful. Of course, this is assuming that we have a living purpose statement, one that truly does informs why we exist.

As noted in my first post last week, I am planning a potential school as part of this MOOC. While I may not have immediate plans to move forward with such a school, doing so allows me to think more deeply about the subject, and refine my vision for schooling, informed by years of studying different types of schools, and grappling with a personally meaningful educational philosophy. With that in mind, here was a brief introduction to my school idea from last wee:

With that in mind, I decided to pre-select the name for my future school. It will be called The Neighborhood, a project-based 6-12 school focused upon helping learners find, build upon and use their unique potential to serve their neighbors.  For insight into the name, check out my recent article about the life and calling of Mr. Rogers. The vision is a school that is not about everyone learning the same thing. It is instead about learning that which helps one make a unique contribution to the world. This video about whether school is failing Superman makes this point well.

So, what is the purpose of this school? It is to guide each learner in discovering, polishing, embracing and putting to use their unique individual and collective potential to help others. This is the concept through which the curriculum and everything else will be designed.

I am convinced that a clear and compelling purpose is capable of generate guiding questions that allow the community to embrace, protect, and pursue that purpose. Here are the sort of questions that come from my proposed school purpose statement.

  • Does it help learners discover what is unique about themselves and how they can benefit others?
  • Does it help each person develop the necessary confidence and competencies to reach their unique potential?
  • Does it allow learner to focus on their strengths, gifts, abilities and interests and not following a prescribed standard curriculum for all?
  • Does it help foster development of the confidence and character needed to thrive in helping others?
  • Does it encourage the personalized learning necessary to empower each learner?
  • Does it help each learner cultivate the self-directed learning skills & personal learning network useful in continuing to discover, polish, and use one’s unique potential throughout life?
  • Does it help them discover their innate worth, identity, purpose, and value?
  • Does it help them discover the innate worth, identity, purpose and value of their neighbors?
  • Does it help the learners collectively discover how they can find joy, fulfillment and meaning in helping others with their gifts and abilities?
  • Are there adequate resources and experiences for learners to discover more about themselves and their unique potential?
  • Does it help increase awareness and competence in leverage the collective potential to benefit others?
  • Does it help foster a balanced sense of self worth, care for one’s “neighbor”, and the power and possibility of collective intelligence and influence?
  • Does it help increase awareness of, care for, and interest in one’s “neighbor”?

These are the types of questions that I envision informing the structure of the school day, the curriculum, design plans for the physical building, the vision for teaching and learning, and the staff hiring decisions.