Your Mission, Should You Choose to Celebrate It

Brenda Hamm | January 22, 2024

How about a New Year’s resolution for your school? Better yet, how about a New Year’s tradition?

Not surprisingly, there are a ton of online discussions regarding New Year’s resolutions. Here are a couple of my favorites from Reddit. ArcadianHarpist asks, “How do you guys figure out your New Year’s resolutions?” with one response being from SubparBookLibrary that makes it clear I’m living life completely willy-nilly, when they share, “I’ve started to have categorised journal entries for each habit or resolution. I write updates on how those are going. Those are separate journals so it’s easy to just dive into a single one, or go over last entries and identify common pitfalls.” Kingkongmonkeyman made me feel a bit better when they said, “I keep mine super simple: get abs. It’s the same every year.”

Of course, making New Year’s resolutions is not uniquely American. In fact, I prefer the Italian buoni propositi, or “good intentions” over our “resolutions” version of things. I may intend to eat better, get more exercise, and visit my sister more often but if I fall off that path I can reclaim my intentions and get back to them. If I resolve to do those things, however, one Happy Meal or slovenly week, or passing on driving 4 hours for a chat with sis feels like I have failed my stated goals and have become one of the majority of Americans whose resolution lasted less than 4 months.

I imagine it would be risky for a school to declare any New Year’s resolutions. I can see it now, “We will all eat better, get more exercise, and visit our relatives more often.” Or, being a school it might sound more like, “We will all arrive at school on time, will not show videos or give students candy on the last of school day before vacation, will arrive prepared for all of our meetings, and will follow all the pick up and drop off rules.” Less risky would be declaring buoni propositi, of course, but even that would be obviously challenging. 

A school could have a New Year’s tradition, however, that could involve the entire community and, more importantly, support the work of the head of school, senior administrators, and board of trustees. At the beginning of each calendar make it your school’s tradition to celebrate the school’s mission. Independent schools are uniquely mission driven. As John Gulla says in his NAIS article,  “Why Do Independent Schools Exist?,” An independent school…determines its curriculum, educational philosophy, and pedagogical practices according to its mission.” School culture descends from the mission. Everything from class size to capital expenditures is influenced by the school’s mission. A school’s mission can even clarify or defend if, when, and why a school leader should take action on an issue. Mission statements may be brief or many paragraphs. Every one reflects an independent school’s reason for being.

A school’s mission is paramount yet how often is it celebrated school wide? What if every January there is a school-wide commitment or recommitment to your school’s mission? Reading it at an assembly, sending a letter home as a follow up, and a brief talk about it at the next board meeting could keep the mission at the forefront of the community’s mind. There are lots of ways to toast your school’s mission and every year can be a bit different, if you choose. Now there’s a new Year’s resolution that could become a grand New Year’s tradition. 

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