Mission Statement

It's all about Relationships

My role as a coach and teacher in an ever-evolving digital world.

My mission is to build trust-filled relationships with faculty and students as I coach, support and encourage them to successfully engage in digital world applying innovative teaching and learning practices with discernment, compassion and courage.

Thoughts on creating a personal mission statement

One of the last assignments in the course Values, Ethics and Foundations in Digital Education is to Write a mission statement, a brief statement of your vision as a digital education leader.

Honestly, I have not been looking forward to this assignment in our program. Writing this mission statement is difficult for me because I hate being tied down, I like to have my options open, and a mission statement seems so binding.  However, I am appreciating the experience of trying to figure out my own mission statement.  

The Bear Creek mission statement is what attracted me to the school both as a teacher and a parent. It is immediately noticeable as one walks into the building.  The golden words, Our mission is to provide a high-quality, Christian liberal arts education in a nurturing environment that will enable each student to become the individual God intends, are emblazoned on the wall of the main entrance for all to see. The mission statement is referred to often in pro dev meetings, chapel presentations, discussions about curriculum or technology, and discussions about our students – the mission statement is pervasive.  It is a rock solid statement that undergirds all operations at our school.

Another mission statement I noticed almost immediately upon entering a building is the one that hangs nicely framed in our neighbor and good friends’ family room.  Before their wedding, Karl and Analiisa created a mission statement and set of core values for their marriage. When I first met them and read the document twenty years ago I thought it was quaint and little weird.  And now, after two decades of knowing them, I think ‘Wow!’  They were really intentional from the outset to have a committed relationship that would thrive despite all the ‘stuff of life’ that could overwhelm a marriage. Maybe this is what a mission statement is all about – setting a vision for the future, establishing goals based on shared values and having an avenue for accountability.

So, what is the rock solid statement that undergirds all operations in my capacity as a digital education leader? Do I have a vision for the future? Am I intentionally pursuing my goals? What are my goals and are they based on my values?  Well, as I have worked through the first quarter of SPU’s Digital Leadership masters program, Values, Ethics and Foundations in Digital Education, I have been gradually developing answers to these questions. Three guiding principles have helped shape my personal mission statement as a leader in digital education.

Guiding Principles

Trust-filled relationships are foundational to productive environments in which experimentation and innovation is valued

I value being part of a team. I love the idea of team teaching or co-teaching. I appreciate the nitty-gritty ‘iron sharpens iron’ deliberations that happen in a collaborative space. For these reasons I have always thought of myself as more of a mentor and encourager, rather than a teacher. Most work done in my classrooms is group work or team led. Team-building exercises and collaborative activities are built into the units I teach.  I have found that whether dealing with students in a classroom, or with teachers in professional development, in order to have successful ‘nitty-gritty’ collaborative experiences, there has to be a high level of trust, a deep cushion of relational capital.

Building relationship is foundational in a training/mentoring/learning context because it creates a climate in which all participants feel empowered to take risks, feedback is received as helpful critique instead of criticism, and learning is authentic. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) highlights collaboration as a standard for technology coaches.  Standard 3a states that coaches ‘establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.’ Standard 3b,3c, and 3d use the words ‘partner’ and ‘personalize’ to reinforce the idea that good teachers value good mentoring and, in my experience, good mentoring only happens when there is a good relationship.

Discernment is required to engage and thrive in a fast-paced, ever-changing, boundary-breaking, frontier-exploring digital world

Most educators would agree with Jones and Bridges (2016) that technology in learning is no longer an option because technology is now a vital compo­nent of both work life and personal life. According to them, technology, and our ability to access it freely, is inextricably connected to the fabric of everyday life. That being so, it is vital that our students learn how to wisely access, use and share information. At the same time that we train our teachers and students to be digitally literate, we must also train them to be use digital tools wisely. Carrie James (2014) refers to the dangers of being unintentional in our use of technology and suggests that we need ‘conscientious connectivity’ to overcome the pitfalls of moral and ethical insensitivity. If we are raising our students to be leaders in their communities, we need to train them up to have the  knowledge and understanding of how to make wise decisions about how and why they use digital technology.

And what about the future? According to the article Seven Things you should Know about Digital Literacies (2019), some experts are embracing the concept of “digital fluency” as a next-generation tool for developing the kind of social intelligence that is needed to make sense in the digital age. Since we are living in a new and evolving digital world, it makes sense that we need to embrace a new kind of civic discourse, to train ourselves and our students to be good digital citizens. ISTE recognizes this need; one of its standards is for technology coaches to be digital citizen advocates. Standard 7b states that coaches partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology. It further explains the importance of creating shared values for civil, inclusive, humane online interactions and communication, such as standing up for others online and being empathetic and aware of others’ perspectives and experiences.

Learning, digital or otherwise, is for the benefit of the community.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. These are the first two lines of John Donne’s MEDITATION XVII, commonly titled, ‘No Man is an Island.’ This is true. This is also why I think I am a digital optimist and why I am drawn to ISTE coaching standard 7a:Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

I have been teaching for many years and for the past sixteen years I have taught middle school – and although I really love the age, they do sometimes get whiny and ask questions like, “why do we have to do math, study history, or learn Latin?” My answer is, “so you can go out and heal a broken world.”  Yes, I do get weird looks from the kids, but usually, after a bit of discussion, they get my point. One of the reasons I love teaching middle school is because the struggle with letting go of self as the focus of attention is so evident.  However, Middle schoolers are so ready to help change the world.  Their ideas are fresh and inspiring. Ideally, I’d like them to have access to the training, technology, space and time to play and experiment with ideas which will impact the world. 

With the appropriate digital tools embedded in a robust curriculum facilitated by trained and enthusiastic teachers, our students are ready to influence, and effect change in our community and the world. 

                                                            References

7 Things You Should Know About Digital Literacies,” EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, July 29, 2019

Donne, J. (1624) No Man is an Island. Meditations XVII

ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

James, C. Disconnected : Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2014.

Jones, Marshall & Bridges, Rebecca (2016). Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends. In The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology (329). John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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