Is it Mission-Critical?

Having spent the past week immersed in the startup culture and innovative ethos of schools and companies in San Francisco, I am now thinking about how this might translate back to my east coast environment. A common thread that has emerged in my thinking is the notion of something being ‘mission-critical.’ Many, if not all, of the startups and independent schools we visited grounded their innovations in their company or school mission. When attempting to introduce a change or new idea, whether in a tech company or a school,  the questions often posed are: “Is that mission-critical?” “Is it helping to further the strategic plan or goal of XYZ school/organization?” This has led me to  think about how I might articulate my own “mission” as an educational leader.

If you were to craft a mission statement for yourself, what would it say? How might it connect to that of your school/company? Of those in your professional network?

Networks are mission-critical to me. As a first year teacher-librarian, I was lucky to find ‘my tribe’ through Twitter (#TLchat). I learned so much from teacher-librarians and others in education across the country who openly shared the amazing things that their students were learning. I found a home online that counteracted the isolation that came with being the only librarian in my building.

At the end of the last school year, I took a risk, and left my role as teacher-librarian. I moved into a new type of school and new position within education. Once again, I felt very isolated. The task of building a new network within this rather unfamiliar context has been challenging. However, spending the past year without my TL tribe has allowed me to think critically about what is ‘mission-critical’ for me in a specific job, an organization, and life in general. The ideas of collaborating, taking risks, creating, designing, and sharing are all mission-critical to me. Consequently…

I’ve decided that my mission statement is:


Each of the phrases above is connected to someone within my tribe. Whether I’ve had the opportunity to connect with them in person, or have been following them from a distance, their words have impacted me in one way or another.  As I start to build my new tribe, I am very grateful to have met the #pennsv16 group of educational leaders, and look forward to continuing to learn with them.

What is the Uber of Education?

The first day of our #pennsv16 adventure began at Wharton’s San Francisco campus. On our ride over, the question of ‘What is the Uber of education?’ was posed. As someone new to Uber, (yes, I downloaded the app upon arrival at the SFO airport), it was interesting to think about how Uber has disrupted the traditional transportation industry. Even more intriguing, was trying to think about an equivalently disruptive innovation within the education industry.

Working in a school with a rich and deeply-rooted history, I think the tension between innovation and tradition is ever present. Being relatively new to this particular school myself, I’m interested in how we might continue to develop our identity without simultaneously becoming trapped by it. Particularly within high-performing schools, the challenge seems to be not only articulating the value in disrupting something that’s already considered to be ‘good,’ but then acting upon that thinking.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to start a school from scratch.

Would it be easier to innovate in the absence of a history, with a team of people building a school culture together rather than assimilating into already existing structures?

Conversely, is it more challenging to develop and ultimately disrupt a culture that doesn’t exist? Would Uber exist if there were no taxis preceding it? What does this mean for our schools and their leaders?

Notes from the day: 

Notes #pennsv16 Day One