25 May Blue sky or continuity?
I’ve been reading the comments attached to the recent survey on the mission statement. Generally people liked what we did (as you will see from the analysis in the previous post), but the comments, both positive and negative, were very interesting and worth reflection. They will all end up in our reference folders and be looked at as we go forward. Right away I can see some phrases and statements which will be helpful in formulating the mission statement definitions and guiding principles for the school, and others which again flag up areas of concern. For example: “Rather than spending so much time on creating an excellent mission statement, we should concentrate on creating an excellent school”. Many people, of course, reckon that the two activities are strongly linked; an organization that is unclear about its character and mission is not one which will achieve excellence.
But the comment that made me think was the one that said we should have started with a blank sheet of paper, not a proposition. Ask everyone connected with Woodstock to send a sentence about the school’s mission, then sift through them for commonalities. That’s a fair point, and an oft-used method to generate consensus. It’s actually what we did in 2003, last time we worked through this exercise, and I’ve done that in other contexts and in a previous life. However, I think that’s a flawed approach at this point in Woodstock’s life. We happen to be here, a random group of people at a certain time in the history of the school, and we have to both understand our continuities, our roots, if you will, as well as discerning what Woodstock should be in the world today and in the next generation. We don’t have the right to rethink from ground zero. We must recognize what are the solid foundations on which we are building, the “rock from which we are hewn”. It’s true that, most probably, as we saw in 2003, there is such a strong culture at Woodstock that those foundations and commonalities would emerge, but there is a certain instability, also, about an organization which needs frequently to go back and start from scratch. Surely after 157 years we know who we are?