The Flock is about to finish its fourth week of school. Our classroom is up and running. Our daily routines are mostly established. Beginning of the year assessments are nearly complete. Most importantly, our classroom community is continuing to grow and get stronger each day. Spending a great deal of time in the first weeks discussing “Lessons From The Geese” is proving to pay off. My students and I have discussed why we are called The Flock. We’ve discussed how we need to work together, learn from each other, and treat each other as partners on this learning adventure. We are on our way traveling as a community of learners. However, the MOST critical part of our journey can be explained by answer this one very simple question.
Where are we going?
My students and I had spoken a great deal about this learning journey, but it was time to establish a destination. What is our purpose? What is our goal? I wanted to make sure that my students knew why we come to our classroom every day, other than, “My parents make me” or “because I’m legally obligated to be here.”
I have found that creating a mission statement plays a crucial role in building my classroom community. Bringing students into the creation process empowers them to take more ownership of their learning. A class mission statement can also:
- Ensure a common language for all students
- Provide students with a purpose for each lesson and assignment
- Encourage goal-setting and growth mindset
- Bring a sense of pride to the classroom
Before we wrote our mission statement, I felt it was important for us to know what a mission statement is, as well as look at examples of mission statements. After clarifying that a mission statement is not when the video game states your new mission on the next level of Call Of Duty, we determined that it is simply a statement of purpose and focus. I shared mission statements from well-known corporations like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and McDonalds. Together we noticed that most mission statements answer these questions: What do the company do? How is the company helping their customers? Why is our company important? I asked students to think at home about how we could answer these same questions for our classroom.
The following day, we gathered on the carpet and one student started our conversation by saying, “we are our own customers. We learn for ourselves.” Students seemed very impressed with this insight, so I asked them to brainstorm a list of answers to these four questions:
- Who are we?
- What do we want to accomplish?
- How are we going to accomplish it?
- Why is it important to accomplish this?
Students returned after 10 minutes, and I recorded their answers to each question using Google Docs. After much debate, I asked students to vote for their top two answers for each question. These top two answers for each question would be used to create our final mission statement. You can see our brainstorming list and voting process here.
Once voting was complete, our final mission statement was written by simply combining what the students selected. Here is what we came up with:
Creating the mission statement was only the first step. Now, it is our job as a community to live by this and make sure that everything we do is an example of our shared mission. I have posted this in our classroom, as well as outside of our classroom door. Students know that I’ve put a copy of this mission statement into my guest teacher folder, so when I am out of the classroom any substitute teacher will know what we stand for. I have challenged students to always ask themselves how every assignment and project fits with our mission statement. If they can’t see a connection, I encourage them to ask me.
One thing that my students have heard me say is “the nine months of fifth grade is a just one part of your learning journey.” Our life as a learner is a long, gradual adventure with many stops along the way. Perhaps that’s why “The Flock” metaphor has become the cornerstone of my classroom community. We’re all going to be in the classroom together every day for nine months. So we might as well go on this learning journey together with a common destination. I hope that our mission statement inspires a community mindset and empowers students to support each other along the way.