Purpose Over Everything

May 25, 2020 by Charity Parsons, Ed.S.

Purpose Over Everything
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In my best Cardi B. voice: “CORONAVIRUS!”
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s tackle one more thing: the same inequalities and inequities that existed pre-COVID19 have been exacerbated by the seemingly instant leap to online learning models.  Needless to say, March 2020 through the closing of schools for the summer has been & will continue to be one adventure in education to say the least.  

After the initial sadness and grief that “life as we knew it would never be the same”, I realized that this is an opportunity to P I V O T!  My friends, we have before us a tremendous opportunity:
  • to reimagine how we view education, 
  • to revisit our beliefs and ideals, and 
  • to allow our newfound visions to guide our steps as we go forward with students at the heart of everything we do. 
And not just SOME students,  ALL students! 

So, what does that entail?  What’s the work to be done? 

I proffer that we begin with our PURPOSE.  What’s your idea of the purpose of education?  How is this evident at your organization or within the school/school system? 

I firmly believe that if we as educators don’t know where we’ve been, how do we know where we’re going and most importantly today, how do we know whence to PIVOT? Let’s start there: 

STEP ONE: How has education’s purpose been viewed over history? 

Does your idea of learning take on the Enlightenment’s notion of education as the path to reach the highest goal in life? Perhaps you think that education is the path of the learner to inquire, to create, to search the riches of the past and to internalize the significant parts as they continue on a quest to learn on their own.

Maybe indoctrination is a purpose of education for you.  One where learners will not challenge existing frameworks; only, they will take on the learning needed to uphold current systems.  This means that school and school systems would be an institute for the indoctrination of the young.  Here, education systems are more centered upon control, institutionalization, and more vocational training to train young people into a life of conformity.  

I’m not going to tell you what to choose, only, I highly recommend that you explore the works of Lisa Delpit and Anthony Cody to help you as you research, explore, and come to your own conclusions. Across the country, there are examples of individuals, organizations, and systems designing more purposeful & purpose-filled interactions with the students’ world.  Below are a few educators whose work uses PURPOSE to foster instruction that engages and empowers: 
  • At PBL Path, the organization’s purpose takes root in the power of place based learning, anchored in the Apache Proverb: “Wisdom sits in places”.
  • AdaptiveX, as an organization, anchors its purpose in leveraging adaptive testing software to then foster adaptive learning experiences that are culturally responsive.
  • Lifelong Learning Defined expresses their purpose of education in providing an array of timely topics in education; notably, Rev Up Robotics as easily accessible robotics & coding with an equity lens.  

STEP TWO: What has been the purpose of education for your organization over time?

Over time, how has the purpose of education for your school or system evidenced itself in the day to day decisions, structures, and policies implemented?   Have learners (adult & youth) been invited to critically assess their surroundings, their learning?  Has it “always been this way”?  We get to be radically honest with ourselves and our stakeholders at this step.  We take data analysis, anecdotal evidence, and stakeholder opinions into consideration and allow transparency to navigate the waters about what we have done as systems and schools and where we need to adjust going forward. 

STEP THREE: What will the purpose of education be for your organization going forward? 

Here’s where the rubber meets the road: now that we have the most radical amount of transparency and we can call things as they are in steps one and two, we can pivot accordingly.  What are the structures and policies which no longer serve our learners? What needs to be disrupted? Where can we dismantle existing barriers and reimagine? Anchor this work in a revisit to the school or system’s Graduate Profile.  Don’t have one yet? This resource will help you as you have this conversation in your organization.  From here, you can leverage the Graduate Profile as your North Star, guiding every move as we pivot forward post-COVID19.

If you need help thinking of ways to evaluate your organization’s purpose over time, be sure to subscribe to The Caucus’ After-COVID19 Blog Series by creating an RSS feed and using the link: www.iDoSchool.com/feed Once subscribed to the series, herein offers a ton of resources across several blog posts for you to consider as you pivot.

The pandemic gives us all a new chance to refresh our vision, revisit our purpose.  This rejuvenated vision can guide our decision making and help us establish priorities when it’s time to decide how best to proceed.

Notice, we didn’t yet get into the weeds and details of the “minutiae” of everything: scheduling, online learning, blended models, technology access, accommodations, modifications……… Purpose. Over. Everything.  We must clearly articulate our purpose first, then we use that purpose to guide the decisions about the “everything”.  Starting here with grace, we will make the pivot. 

What’s your purpose? How has the pandemic given you new eyes to speak to the future of education? Reach out to us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIN, and Facebook @iDoSchool and let us know how your Purpose Over Everything conversations go.

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