Mission Possible for Your Program


“If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?”

This statement is obviously pre-GPS technology, but I think you know where we’re going with this…

At SPARK, we’re big believers in instructional alignment.  Sure, we have Standards, benchmarks, yearly plans, assessment tools, and activities, pedagogy, and equipment to coordinate.  Sheesh, isn’t that enough??!

Actually, there’s one more piece to the puzzle – and it really completes it.  A mission statement is what your district, or school, or physical education program believes in.  It’s at the top of the instructional alignment pyramid – IOW, you don’t include that instructional unit in your program if it doesn’t align with your mission statement.  You don’t grade students that way if it doesn’t align with your mission statement.  What you do daily, weekly, monthly, yearly should cascade up to your mission statement.

If you’re a physical educator at an elementary, middle or high school and your department (even if your department is only YOU) doesn’t have a MS, it’s high time to put the task in your queue.  If you already have a mission statement, when was the last time you re-visited it?

Here are 10 terrific tips for writing (a better word might be developing) a mission statement, followed by a few samples (not models) from other schools to review (sans school name for anonymity).

  1. Ask yourself or your team the right questions.  To begin, what do we do and why do we do it?  What do we want for our students, our school, our community?  What are the 3 or 4 objectives or attributes that define our PE program?  Think about the SPARK that initially ignited your desire to become a physical educator in the first place.  What will keep your SPARK alive?
  1. Say it clearly.  Your mission statement needs to clearly state your professional goals and objectives. It should explain how what you do as a department will make a difference in the lives of your students, school, and community.
  1. Decide what makes you different.  Never forget you are pursuing the same budget dollars as other subject areas.  How does physical education stand out from the other educational disciplines?
  1. Build your brand.  Use your mission statement to build your unique brand.  Make sure to communicate your program’s key values to your students, school, and community.
  1. Keep it short and sweet.  Ideally, you should be able to summarize your department’s mission in a few sentences.  Consider it your elevator pitch.  You should be able to state your department’s mission succinctly in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the ground floor to the top floor.
  1. Be honest.  Make sure when you read your own mission statement, it reflects what you/your colleagues truly believe.  Too much pomp and self-congratulatory language will turn off those who read it, so avoid saying your program is the “best” at this or the “world leader” at that.
  1. Make it a joint effort.  It’s incredibly helpful to get the input of others, both inside and outside your department.  Collaborators can help you to better see the strengths and weaknesses of your mission statement.
  1. Polish the language.  See to it that you have several pairs of eyes (ideally belonging to wordy, editor types) to review your mission statement many times until every word sizzles (perhaps, SPARK’s).  Your mission statement should be error-free, eloquent, and precise.  It should be dynamic and inspirational.  In short, it should be as close to perfect as you can get it.
  1. Spread the word.  Once your mission statement is complete, start sharing it by posting it everywhere you can.  It should be prominently displayed on your school website, in your locker room or gym, in correspondence that goes home with the kids, maybe even at the bottom of your school e-mails.  Be creative in spreading the word.
  1. Revise as needed.  Your mission statement, as wonderful as it might sound now, should not be set in stone.  As your program changes, so too might your department’s mission.  Revisit your mission statement on a regular basis to evaluate whether it should be revised or updated.  If it’s solid, you probably won’t need to alter it significantly as time goes by.

Samples of mission statements from physical education departments:

The _______ Middle School Physical Education staff believes that each and every student can achieve excellence regardless of size, maturity, coordination, body type, or other physical capability.

We as a department are concerned with developing a child’s positive attitude towards physical education that will last a lifetime.

_________ physical education strives to maintain an activity based program while teaching lifelong fitness in a safe and enjoyable environment.

There you have it, mission possible!  You can do this!  And you should.

So think about your next steps, put this assignment in your calendar so you begin to allocate time to make it happen, then enjoy the process.

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