It's the Mission, Not the MandatesI recently began reading Amy Fast’s book, It’s the Mission, Not the Mandates. It is a book that has already captured my interest and has a lot of application to the work I am doing around reimagining the skills and attributes that our students require in order to truly become Life Ready.

In the first chapter, titled “The Need for Purpose,” Amy sets the foundation for understanding the challenges that are – in many ways – continuing to prevent public education from thriving, public educators from finding fulfilling satisfaction for their career, and students from being prepared for their ultimate desired path. One paragraph in the chapter caught my attention – to the point where I read it three times. I think it summarizes the path we must be willing to take in order for public education to reach its potential.

“We must understand the desires of students, parents, teachers, and administrators. We must understand the hopes of politicians, business leaders, and other concerned citizens. We must also step back and form a clear picture of American society, what we value most, and the discrepancy between that ideal and our current state. And finally, we must examine the origins of public education, how the aims of our schools have changed over time, and what inspired the goals of current education reform in America. Are some pursuits of public education nobler than others?”

It’s difficult to argue with that direction. But understanding, as described in this excerpt, requires an even deeper exploration of what it is our students need from each of us. What are their desires? What are their strengths? How can we leverage their strengths to fulfill their desires while preparing them for the world that is being defined for them?

That’s what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish. Isn’t it? We are preparing them for a world they had little hand in defining. They don’t determine the jobs that are available or the high-need careers. They don’t have influence over the cost of higher education or the debt accumulated in all of the years it requires just to obtain a bachelor’s degree. For the most part, they don’t determine the salary they can command and whether it will cover their cost of living expenses.

That’s an interesting prospect. With all of our desires, we want each of our students to become the best them that they can be. We want them to fulfill their maximum purpose in life. Even more, we hope that they can accomplish this with as few obstacles as possible.

But what does this look like? Hopefully, by leveraging the constituents described in the book’s excerpt, and inspiring them to dig so deep that they are finally able to explore the untapped perception of what students need to thrive in the enormous world after high school, we will begin the process of reimagine College and Career Readiness and transform that approach into one that describes Life Ready students.

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