What’s your word?
Can I be honest about something? I hate most core values exercises. It’s not that they are inherently bad. It’s that they usually render the core values we wish we had or the core values we think we should have. They rarely help us see the core values we actually have.
A simpler and ultimately more effective way to get at our core values is to try to distill them down to one word.
That’s right. ONE word.
For instance, as a teacher, my word was “Options.” Everything I did was to give my students more options. The rigorous college-level work I crafted for even my most struggling students? It was so that college would become an option for them. The trips to the opera and the Kennedy Center? Even if they never became opera buffs or patrons of the arts, I wanted those venues to become options for them. The code-switching? I wanted them to have the option of navigating different contexts outside their communities while keeping them grounded in their own community. I nurtured their currencies while trying to help them acquire different currencies because I wanted them to have options.
When I became an administrator, I still wanted options for my students, but I adopted a new word for my work with teachers – Mastery. I wanted to give our students master teachers, so I nourished each teacher’s journey towards mastery. In fact, most of my books have been about how to become or lead master teachers. When it comes to school leaders, my word is mastery.
As an writer and speaker and professional developer, lately I’ve been mulling over a new word. I still want students to have as many options as they can. I still feel the best way to do that is to give them master teachers. But, as I work with teachers on the journey to mastery and with administrators charged with leading those teachers, I am starting to see the need for something more, something that goes beyond leadership or even transformation. I need a new word.
I’ll tell you what my new word is in my next post, but for now, I want to hear what YOUR word is? Why do you do what you do? What difference are you trying to make and how are you trying to make that difference? What is your why? If you had to distill your purpose down to one word, what would that word be?
Tell me YOUR word in the comments below.