Unlocking Unique Potential

As I reflect on the administrative work I do at Trinity, I realize how clear and potent the mission statement of my school actually is.  Yes, many statements of mission/vision sound similar (especially at independent schools) and from the outside, one may think that the Trinity School Mission Statement is like many others. However, I work on a team with members who actively screen each decision they make with the School’s statement of purpose. It’s an incredible model for me and for all of the members of our community.

As I formulate my goals for the 2011-12 school year, I am reminded how two major initiatives of which I am a part (World Languages and the Personal Learning Portfolio) require that our statement of mission is clear, potent, and alive. In fact, my Head of School often states that he is driven, inspired, and obsessed with Trinity’s Mission Statement. As I think of the work I do, the following twelve words especially resonate:

unique potential

responsible, productive, and compassionate member of the expanding global community

Trinity’s Mission Statement (in full) is below:

“The Mission of Trinity School is to create a community of learners in which each child can acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to achieve his or her unique potential and become a responsible, productive, and compassionate member of the expanding global community.”

I just finished a very full morning with all of the new faculty and staff at Trinity. As I listened to members of Trinity’s Academic Leadership Team speak about the School, I was reminded of Matt Damon’s speech at last weekend’s SOS March and National Call to Action. The text of his speech is below (to see the video of his speech, click here), but the word that kept coming to my mind this morning (and a word that Damon references during his speech) is the word empower.

As another school year begins, I realize how blessed I am to feel empowered in the job that I do.  Not all educators (and certainly not all administrators) feel empowered (and that is the crux of Damon’s speech) by the work that they do or, generally, by the vision/mission/direction of their school or school system.

What do I know for sure?

I know that as I embark on a new year, I know (for sure) that I am blessed to work in a school where “unlocking unique potential” is the status quo. I am blessed to work in a school with a leader who is known to operate and make decisions based on a mission which is a driving (both inspirational and obsessive) force in his daily work. I am blessed to be a part of a team which can so clearly and succinctly explain to a new group of faculty and staff that unlocking unique potential is why we are here. We must make Trinity’s Mission Statement come alive…we must be empowered and we must empower others.  It’s a big task.  And it’s about time to begin anew…


I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself: my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned, none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success, none of these qualities that make me who I am…can be tested.

I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep…this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, My kid aint taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous. That was in the 70s when you could talk like that.

I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called overpaid; the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.


One thought on “Unlocking Unique Potential

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