Selves. A thought-provoking word, when you see it on its own. Or, by extension, “self”. A parent asked me about that last night.
The context was our vision launch – an impressive event (thank you to the team) to communicate our thinking about the school’s future. For those who want a taste of last night, simply click the video on the school’s home page (www.smus.bc.ca).
Here is the vision statement itself:
To learn, to lead, to serve; discovering the promise in our selves and the world.
Simple, and essential.
The parent’s question was, why put the word “selves” out on its own, when it might more commonly be attached to “our”? The question came along with the knowing comment that clearly it was a deliberate decision, which is true.
Our vision process took a year, initiated by the Board in October, 2007. It involved wide consultation, feedback and then discussion by the steering committee. A more detailed elaboration of this sentence appears in the upcoming issue of School Ties, due out in a week or two. In the end, the process distilled out a set of words that resonated with our community and with the direction of the school. We have become very attached to our words.
But again – why “selves”? First of all, a number of people in the groups of alumni, parents, staff, students and Board we consulted voiced thoughts that pointed to this word. Our steering committee mulled over these voices at length. Clearly, our vision statement had to focus on the importance of individual potential, in addition to a collective promise. The word “promise” had already bubbled out of all the other language we were stirring in our pot. Clearly, also, the vision had to focus on our place in the world – hence the “world” part of the statement. Our dreams of the School’s future include the fulfillment of each individual’s promise, as a sort of obligation to our selves (there it is again) and the opportunities we find, or are given. To dream a little further: this statement is not a disembodied statement. Underlying this vision, we have programmes stressing a sense of service, global responsibility, and principles of leadership. Shaping some of these initiatives is the belief that democratic principles and rights are important values to learn, to preserve, and promote. This is about our “selves”, as much as the fulfillment of potential. At the core of democracy are a number of individual rights around freedom of expression, freedom of the press; one person, one vote; various rights around security of person and privacy, and so on – while it may seem like a stretch to tug these notions to the surface in talking about this simple word, to those of us who put the statement together it was a shining example of how deeply the vision can reach into what we hope to do at the school, every day and in the near and distant future.