Missions Matter: Three Pathways for Living Out a School Mission

A mission-driven organization defines its values to gain the traction needed to accomplish a set of goals. Mission-driven schools work to design a curriculum, coordinate efforts across departments and divisions, and invest in programs that align with a core commitment to achieve a conceived vision for students. Realizing this mission not only requires school leaders and faculty to envision and communicate its purpose, but to strategically put their mission into action to bring meaning to the words.

GOA’s mission - to reimagine learning to empower students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society - reflects a commitment to preparing schools for the future of learning, adapting to an ever-changing educational landscape, and developing learning experiences that connect peers and colleagues around the world. We put our mission to work by partnering with schools to create global learning experiences for students and educators, provide coaching that helps teachers rethink their roles and shift their practices, and share strategies and tools to help educational leaders transform schools.

Christ Church Episcopal School (CCES), an independent day school serving approximately 1,100 students in grades K5-12 in Greenville, South Carolina, joined the consortium in 2014. At that time, Head of School, Dr. Leonard Kupersmith, shared his perspective on how membership would help them carry out their mission to “prepare students to think deeply, act responsibly...and create imaginatively.” The corresponding mission goals CCES set forth for students run parallel to GOA’s six core competencies, as Dr. Kupersmith and his leadership team recognized. Their vision for faculty is reflected in the nurturing and development of these goals.

CCES is aligning GOA’s programming to meet its mission in three ways.

1) Create pathways for students to engage in online learning in a variety of ways.

Since its inception at CCES, students, faculty, and academic leaders have maximized their GOA membership by engaging in nearly all aspects of both the student and professional learning programs. In addition to enrolling 10-12th grade students in semester and year-long courses, the academic team at CCES has provided opportunities for middle school and 9th grade students to experience GOA’s flex courses and Learners for Life series. The 2-3 week flex course offerings focus on current global issues that teachers and students can explore and weave into existing classes. The four-part Learners for Life series provides middle school students with a more structured online experience focused on theme-based topics relevant to their development.

Eighth grade students at CCES recently completed their first-ever GOA learning experience in the course, “Growth, Grit, and Gratitude.” The course was designed to help students build on the tools and strategies to employ when faced with a challenge, and they explored how they think, feel, and act to strengthen their ability to create and sustain a sense of well-being. “This course ties in beautifully with our Cavalier Way themes of Character, Community, Excellence, and Service,” said Donna Burns, 8th Grade Geography Teacher and Advisor. Following his experience, 8th grade student, Thomas Siachos, shared, “I really liked the concept of learning with people all over the nation, really the world. There was a great sense of community.”

As CCES faculty participate alongside their students in these courses, they help to incorporate this content into their curriculum, learn along with their students, and facilitate the scaffolding of skills students need to independently navigate online learning going forward. Porter Brown, Class of 2020, reflects, “Global Online Academy is truly an amazing opportunity that has joined the list of wonderful course opportunities that a CCES education provides. My course in architecture forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and apply myself in ways that I had never been able to prior to taking a GOA course. Collaborating with a global community allows a CCES student to carry with them the core principles of the school to explore and discover topics and ideas that are rarely found in the average classroom.”

2) Involve teachers in networked professional learning opportunities.

As students at CCES engage in these online learning experiences, CCES faculty have also pursued professional learning experiences through GOA’s educator courses, programs, and events. Over 30 faculty members have enrolled in educator course offerings such as Rethinking School, Rethinking Assessment, and Coaching Innovation. Professional Learning at GOA is relationship-based at the core, and through enrolling in these courses, CCES faculty have had access to numerous panels of contributing speakers and educators, as well as a network of educators who participate in these courses from member and non-member schools around the world. With these opportunities to collaborate and share experiences, participants also take with them a curated collection of resources and strategies to put into action.

Charlie Woodward, Upper School History Teacher, shared that, “Professional Development through GOA has shifted the way I think about teaching and learning, all of the tangibles - the way I approach lessons, grading, asking questions - all of that fits well with what our school is trying to do with curriculum and pedagogy.”

3) Provide new opportunities for educators to teach and learn.

CCES currently has three faculty members teaching courses for the GOA consortium. Paulette Unger, Upper School Biology Teacher and GOA Site Director at CCES, has been teaching Bioethics for three years. In reflecting on her experience teaching and learning with GOA, she shares, “My professional growth and reflection, personally, has been remarkable thanks to GOA. I’ve been able to think and reflect about how I am teaching, and I’m able to design lessons differently.” Colleagues Christine Taylor and Will Amarante teach Medical Problem Solving and Game Theory respectively. Teaching for GOA is a professional learning opportunity that widens the impact for all students, both online and in brick and mortar classrooms. Will, who is teaching his first GOA course this semester, says the professional learning experiences through GOA have taught him a great deal about competency-based learning (CBL), which he says, “I am now figuring out how to use in my own classroom.” These experiences have helped CCES faculty carry out an important goal outlined in their strategic plan, to “deliberately cultivate a growth mindset, resilience, and intellectual curiosity.”

This mission alignment ensures that schools like CCES make the most of their membership and impact faculty and student learning.

This post is part of our Missions in Action series, which profiles how GOA member schools align GOA’s student and professional learning programs to meet their school’s mission. We thank CCES for their support and collaboration on this piece. Want us to profile your school? Email us at hello@globalonlineacademy.org and share how you live your mission with us @GOALearning.

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