Monthly Archives: October 2015

Mission Mapping (i)

Mission Map 1Crafting school culture begins with the mission of the school; it is the sky that generates the daily climate, it should be what we can all see and feel no matter where we are in the organisation or who we are talking to. Families and visitors should feel its warmth every time they are with us. It is our mission, it is our sky; we decide that the sun should always shine.

Mission Map 2

Beneath the mission, the values sit; they should form the absolute predisposition of the school. Each value should support the mission and be purposefully tied to the culture of the organisation transcending any structures or roles within it. Leaders, staff and students should adhere to the same values and thus, the same behaviours. At Trinity, we have three core values; we understand the power of three and use this across our organisation: three core values; three features of a lesson; three cycles every year.

Mission Map 3

The values are defined with razor-sharp clarity and we return to these words every day. Recently, we filmed our students talking about what our values mean to them – without scripts. Even though they were talking about wholly personal experiences of the values in action, we were fascinated to hear them return, unprompted, to the exact language of the definitions, casually dropping the phrases into their conversational speech. This language is alive in our school because we live it.

Mission Map 4

The values are made real through our daily actions – on the middle floor of the building a whole wall is dedicated to a sign that states: actions speak louder than words. For this to be more than decoration, we have to ensure our values are made manifest through daily artefacts. These are the rituals and routines, the language, stories and heroes of our organisation.

Mission Map 5

An example of this mapping would be going from our mission…

“The academy ensured that all students succeeded at university, or a real alternative, thrived in a top job and had a great life.”

…to the value of Hard Work. It is indisputable that the mission will only be realisable with the value of hard work applied every day. Just telling our students to work hard (even with the razor-sharp definition) would be ineffective – maybe even cruel. Our students deserve to be supported through our artefacts, we design them; we show them exactly what we mean by hard work so they are facilitated to succeed. We tell them what the right thing to do is and we show them how to do it. One artefact that exists in the school as a daily routine is our No Hands Up policy. This means that questions at Trinity are directed by the teacher to a specific student – but the routine is key. As a staff, we practise this regularly to make sure we get it right. Ask the question, pause; allow all students time to think, then direct the question to a student by name. If the teacher wants to litmus test the class by asking a student by random selection, the name can be drawn from the class set of named lollipop sticks.

This routine ensures every student knows that every question is their responsibility, they can be called upon at any point. At Trinity, there is no slackening off, learning opportunities are maximised for every student. Committing to an artefact means seeing it through, in this case, that means staff training, coaching, practice; it means administrative support to ensure the class sets of lollipop sticks are ready for the teachers; it means everyone doing it all of the time.

A question being directed, a lollipop stick, these are mission made manifest.

The value of driven values

At Dixons Trinity Academy, we live by the three core values of Hard Work, Trust and Fairness, which pervade everything that we do. To guarantee that these values are lived and underpin our behaviour we have further installed three drivers: MASTERY, AUTONOMY and PURPOSE, outlined by Dan Pink in ‘Drive’. We would go as far as to say that the living presence of these Drivers have led many to regard our school as ‘revolutionary’ in its approach as they ensure that everyone associated with Trinity is inspired to succeed.

While the values safeguard a certain code of conduct, it is the Drivers that motivate us all to meet these high expectations with determination and rigour. In essence, the drivers are what get us up in the morning. They are the fuel to our fire. Without them we would not have the wherewithal to meet the demands set by our core values. Let me explain!

In MASTERY, we seek to achieve great things; refining our practice and investing in what matters. By hanging this Driver around the three core values we ensure that we focus on the right things and seek mastery in an environment aligned to a deep-rooted set of principles. For example, upholding the value of Trust with authenticity must be underpinned by a desire to see AUTONOMY develop in all corners of the academy – with autonomy comes an inherent trust and where there is genuine trust, there exists the sovereignty of autonomy.

At Trinity, we believe core values cannot simply live within a vacuum in and of themselves. The Driver of PURPOSE is integral to ensuring that there is a reason for doing what we do. Our individual and collective purpose clarifies what we are working towards and what each and all will take from their academy experience:

The Academy Sentence

“The academy ensured that all students succeeded at university, thrived in a top job and had a great life.”

The retrospective nature of our sentence obligates us to strive towards a successful future – with clear goals set out in no uncertain terms.

As the school has developed and matured, so have the Drivers become increasingly the imperatives for understanding and working within the remit of our core values. They are, in a sense, the ‘slow burners’, and it has taken us a period of time to truly work out how they give us all real meaning – a raison d’être.

At Dixons Trinity, how do we define Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose and so make them our own?­­­

Mastery is the urge to get better at things that matter made manifest through our commitment to Practice (Doug Lemov, ‘Teach Like a Champion’). We practise key techniques collectively as a staff twice every week during Morning Meetings and engineer more tailored practice during one to one coaching sessions. We have also adapted ‘the cycle of highly effective teaching’ developed by Achievement First and introduced ‘data days’ to ensure that evidence about learning is used to adjust instruction to better meet student needs.

Autonomy is the drive to direct our own lives; at Trinity 100% of students present an exhibition of their Stretch Project at the end of each assessment cycle. In addition to their more traditional curriculum, Stretch Projects allow students to explore an area of interest within a given theme. We aim to develop students’ autonomy and grow their love of learning. Teachers are free to teach as they want as long as students learn and make progress.

Purpose is the drive to connect to a cause larger than ourselves. Those who have visited the school have recognised that our structures liberate teachers to teach and students to learn – because students know why we do things, they buy into them. To keep motivation that lasts, we focus on two important questions. First, we ask a big question to orient our life toward greater purpose – what’s my sentence? In one sentence we state what lasting impression we want to leave on the world. Then we keep asking a small question for day to day motivation – was I better today than yesterday?

With these Drivers to push us forward, our core values permeate all that we do to realise our mission (our Academy Sentence); giving us direction with absolute clarity. In effect, the Drivers are our quality assurance.

Matt Fitzpatrick
Vice Principal

Useful links:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/2202
http://www.danpink.com/drive/