Moral Purpose

So this week I’d like to talk about the idea of “moral purpose” in education……lately this term keeps coming up over and over again in my conversations with other Principals and teacher leaders, and it seems like these days I cannot read an article or watch a video about educational leadership without hearing about the importance and necessity of this notion. I even found myself just last week going on and on about how we all need a sense of moral purpose when I was speaking with a parent about our vision in the Middle School. I think this parent walked away feeling a little confused about the notion, and it got me thinking about what I was really talking about. What is moral purpose…… and how does it impact our lives as teachers, leaders, parents, and colleagues?

Interestingly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot written yet about “moral purpose” in education, other than some interesting articles by leadership and change guru Michael Fullan. I did find some other helpful articles written on the topic from a business perspective however, and another one or two that had some pretty heavy religious connotations, but those didn’t really help clarify things in my mind. I finally stumbled upon some chapter excerpts from Will Ryan’s book, Leadership With A Moral Purpose: Turning Your School Inside Out, which started to help crystallize things for me, and break things down into simpler, digestible pieces. Essentially, for me it boils down to (in the simplest and purest terms)……….doing the right things for our students. There’s a great quote out there that says “managers do things right, but leaders do the right things”, and I think that pretty much says it all…….are we doing the right things for our kids?

We are all important leaders in some capacity……whether it’s leading our students through our daily teachings and/or professional habits, or leading our colleagues through the sharing of expertise and the positive, hopeful attitudes that create our climate and culture. We all have the power to affect change, and to contribute to this shared sense of moral purpose. Fullan talks about creating a shared vision, or mission, that rests on and stems from what’s best for students and student learning……doing the right things to create an environment where students feel safe and encouraged to take risks, where colleagues feel supported and valued, and where all leaders are researching, reflecting, and taking action in a constant attempt to make the school (and student learning opportunities) better. By the way, the best definition on moral purpose that I did find came from Springhead School in Northern England. Their definition reads, “Our moral purpose is an agreed set of principles that creates and leads our vision for the school. It stimulates reflection and review, and supports action. It defines the heart and soul of our school.  Our moral purpose acknowledges that there is a need for our pupils to be both challenged and supported if we are to enrich and enhance every child’s learning and life experiences, by breaking down barriers to learning and participation”……..nice.

This week I’d like us all to think about this notion of moral purpose, and what we can do as teachers to help bring ours to life. I love the tribe that we’ve built in the Middle School, and I love that we’re beginning to have the trust and educational courage to push back on things that don’t align with our shared vision, or our sense of what’s right. Lets’ do the right things for our kids, and not settle for other agendas that veer away from what’s best for student learning. In short, let’s be leaders…and do the right things. Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other!

Quote of the Week……..
Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses or avoids. – Aristotle

Article #1 (attached)
Moral Purpose Writ Large (Michael Fullan) MORAL PURPOSE WRIT LARGE
Article #2The Realist’s Guide to Moral Purpose (Long and Business focused but a good read nevertheless)
http://www.strategy-business.com/article/05405?pg=0

TED Talk – Shane Koyczan (Moving and Beautiful)
http://www.ted.com/talks/shane_koyczan_to_this_day_for_the_bullied_and_beautiful.html

Book SuggestionLeadership With A Moral Purpose: Turning Your School Inside Out – (Will Ryan)

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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