I am sure many people reading this are well aware of Dan Pink’s Drive. I read this soon after it was published almost 5 years ago now, and it absolutely made sense to me. If you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. For a couple of years afterwards, it was my gift of choice for colleagues and friends alike. There are many ideas within Drive that if I am ever fortunate enough to lead my own school, I would like to see underpin the work the whole school community undertakes. It is the antithesis of all the quick fixes which frustrate me daily, and I am convinced that the children in our schools deserve to understand and be helped to achieve those three concepts of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Something which has worked for us (and led nicely on from our commitment to always think about the why first) is Pink’s concept of ‘my sentence’. A short video (which I played to all students and staff) can be found here:
In summary, a ‘my sentence’ encapsulates how you would like to be remembered. That sounds a little morbid but it is utterly brilliant for getting students (and staff) to think about what’s important to them. What’s their why? What motivates them? What do they hope to achieve? I often try and avoid at all costs sentimental quotations, but the words of Gandhi here really do sum up how powerful this activity can be.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
All staff and students created their own ‘my sentence’ and we have shared these as a school community. Some of our student ‘my sentences’ are in the process of being enlarged with photos of the students to be displayed around the school. There are no better role models! I would like to see the staff and student ‘my sentences’ accompany our recruitment literature to give a real sense of what working with the brilliant colleagues and children at our school is like. Asking students to reflect (and refine!) their ‘my sentences’ is an invaluable piece of useful ‘data’ for teachers of new classes in getting to really know them, and what their ambitions and values are. Our Class of 2015 attached their ‘my sentences’ to a balloon and these were released at the end of year Prom. On the bottom of the slip, we asked whoever found them to let us know that they had via email. We had some lovely replies and there was something gratifying about knowing that our students had potentially changed the perception of some out there in relation to teenagers. When we start back in January, we are going to ask all students to revisit their ‘my sentences’ and we will display these by hanging them from the ceiling in our foyer. There are many more practical ways that ‘my sentences’ can be used with all of the school community – we are only just starting!
The other question that Pink believes to be important is “Was I better today than I was yesterday?” This embodies the mindset of growth, determination and hard work that is so important to me and again, it is great to use with staff as well as students. There are all sorts of possibilities in terms of weaving this into the daily life and language of our school that we are beginning to explore.
We have also spent time thinking about what our school ‘my sentence’ and department ‘my sentences’ would be. It’s harder than you might think to capture your dreams, ambitions, and values in just one sentence. Every word counts and like the best poetry, the economy of expression can lead to some beautiful writing. More than that though, I have found it to be unequalled in terms of getting school teams to define and create a shared sense of values and purpose. Our departments use their ‘my sentences’ as their ‘tag line’ to students and on emails. It has not become a gimmick. Instead, it helps form distinct identities within an overarching common identity which has engaged everyone.
My own ‘my sentence’ would be, “She always gave her best and challenged everyone to think, not just be.”