When do I get to be King?!

Christine Marsh Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom

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The mission/goal/objective/target in my classes is simple: Students will learn to read and write with breadth and depth. Those 11 words guide almost everything I do as a teacher. It’s Marsh’s Mission Statement.

There are, of course, a few secondary goals/objectives. I want students to like reading and writing more when they leave my class than they did when they entered. I also want them to understand the political process and able to fully engage in it when they become adults. I want them to empathize with each other and with people from different cultures. I want them to be problem-solving, self-thinking, self-valuing adults.

However, those are all secondary to the King of goals, which is for them to read and write with breadth and depth.

It keeps things simple in my classes, which is not to say that things are “easy.” My class is simple but not easy, which also describes a great deal of life, doesn’t it? For example, I run every day, whether I’m sick or healthy, whether I’m busy or relaxed, whether it’s 110 degrees or 30 degrees. It’s simple to do that. But it’s not easy. There are far too many days when I would rather stay in bed, far too many days when I barely have time to eat, let alone run.

I’ve been thinking that perhaps we need a National Mission Statement in regards to education.

Why don’t we already have one? I googled “Mission Statement for Public Education” and, of course, nothing significant comes up. There’s an entry from the U.S. Department of Education, but it’s about the mission of that particular department, not about public schools.

So many reforms are coming down at public schools that it’s hard to keep up with them all, and I wish that a unifying goal/objective existed. Is the purpose of public education to create skilled workers? Is it to prepare students to enter college? Is it to create global citizens who can compete in a global market? Is it to develop critical thinkers? Is it to get students ready to take tests (let’s hope it’s not this one)? Is it some combination of all five? Or maybe it’s a combination of those five plus many more?

I believe the goal is to create critical thinkers, but that’s just my opinion. I have a feeling that there would be many people who disagree.

Too many people, I fear, would choose the option about taking tests. Tests are rule right now. Data rules. Accountability rules.

But no one goal rules education as a whole.

Perhaps we need one…one goal, one objective, one mission.

Because right now, nothing really rules, which means everything rules, which means there’s a lot of energy going in a lot of different directions.

When someone makes me ruler—King, if you will—I’d insist on a National Mission Statement. And if that’s too idealistic and therefore, unrealistic, I’d at least insist on a national dialogue about it. It would be simple. But not easy.


Christine Porter Marsh

Scottsdale, Arizona

My favorite thing about teaching is watching the lights go on in students’ eyes, watching them getting passionate about traditionally boring things like reading and writing well. This is why I keep coming back. I am in my 24th year of teaching in the same high school from which I graduated, and I still feel like it’s the best job in the world.

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  • Mike Norton

    I like your Mission Statement. As the Father of Hordes, I have one, also. Every kid needs to find at least one thing they are great at. One I helped each kid find that one thing, they tend to find more on their own.

  • Angela Buzan

    Christine, this simple statement about wanting kids to LIKE literacy is huge. A change in preference and motivation in elementary school can impact an entire LIFE. I think about so many secondary teachers whose subject passions were inspired by those early teachers.

  • Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Relates to my thoughts regarding candidates who argue we need to ditch the U.S. Department of Education. More splintering off of reform efforts, etc., seems counterproductive right now. It makes sense for states to create/approve standards and set budget priorities… but in a nationally and globally intertwined economy, both of educational products (including the tests… ugh) and of ideas, how can we not try to develop a shared vision of the potential of public education? In my mind, that would be one of the most important functions of a U.S. Department.

  • Jess Ledbetter

    I love this idea!…and agree that it seems insane we don’t have one yet. Perhaps that is why educational policy is moving in so many disharmonious directions :(

  • Danielle Brown

    “Because right now, nothing really rules, which means everything rules, which means there’s a lot of energy going in a lot of different directions.”

    This words are so true! I like the idea of one National Mission Statement. A statement that stakeholders can own, model, and work towards.

  • Treva Jenkins

    I agree Christine. Why don’t we have a National Mission Statement? It explains the many directional arrows in our profession leading to nowhere. Imagine sitting in a room and asking even a relatively small group of teachers, administrators, students, parents, community members, business leaders, and policymakers to address the question of purpose. Could you imagine how difficult it would be to reach a consensus? It’s no wonder we haven’t truly address this question in education. Like you Christine, I believe we should be helping our young people think more critically, but I also believe that character does count when we are talking about the purpose of education. I love Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement on the purpose of education in his article “The Purpose of Education”. A piece he wrote in the February 1947 edition of the Morehouse College newspaper. He writes, “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge…but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

    I thought you would also like this ASCD infographic :)

  • Lisa Moberg

    I love it- a national educational mission statement!!!! Something we all have in common to drive our goals and decisions. Awesome!

  • Angelia

    Thank you so much for this call to action Chris! This is a great piece and is food for thought for all stakeholders in education. I appreciate the delineation that you make between easy and simple. Something that is forceful and can create change is often simple, but usually never easy. A unifying goal or mission of public education is probably what we need most during trying times in education.
    I wonder what it could mean for our students if we had a unifying goal???? How could that help transform our profession???