Welcome Team Mission Walkers
The Welcome Team has been piloting a mission walk initiative at ISB! The Welcome Team is the administrative team at ISB that consists of the Facilities Team, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director, School Nurse, as well as the Advancement, Technology, Business, and Admissions Departments, along with other administrative staff members. Through mission walks, the team has enjoyed seeing the magic, curiosity, and joy students experience during the school day at ISB.
Assistant Head of School Natalie Judelson introduced the mission walk initiative as an opportunity for the administrative team to come together to identify and share how students are becoming adventurers, advocates, and leaders, in and beyond the classroom. The idea came from Natalie’s experiences at the Annual NAIS Conference and in Leading People, a course that is a part of the Harvard School Management and Leadership (CSML) program.
“I’ve seen many different schools embed mission walks within their school and in many places, these walks have had a profound impact on the school’s culture, how teams solve problems, and the way that teachers and administrators collaborate together. These walks can really turn our school into a learning institution for everyone, not just students. I decided to pilot these walks with the Welcome Team, with the ultimate goal of having a routine schedule where all faculty and staff can participate. The main idea is to focus on pieces of our mission in action, to remind ourselves why we’re here, with a collaborative spirit.” – Natalie Judelson, Assistant Head of School
Each week, a few members of the team meet as a group and use one of the three components of ISB’s mission statement (we develop adventures, we create advocates, we shape leaders) as their lens to discover elements of teaching and learning throughout ISB. They then take a few moments to share with their colleagues what they’ve observed during their larger weekly meetings, facilitating reflective and energizing conversations. Technology Director Jordan Genee shares, “As an administrator, I don’t often have the chance to go into classrooms when classes are in session. The mission walk gave me a better understanding of how much our teachers prepare for their lessons and align them with our core values and mission.”
WE DEVELOP ADVENTURERS
Welcome Team members found a variety of engaging, and creative ways that teachers support students in inspiring them to think critically and seek answers with the adventurer mindset in mind. The first mission walk group visited a Kindergarten classroom, where students were embarking on a mystery adventure as a part of a literacy activity. This involved guessing letters, reinforcing their phonological awareness and knowledge.
The group also peeked into a Middle School math class, where students were participating in a self-reflection activity about how they journey through “learning pits”. Students explored how challenges they encounter in their learning can help them develop perseverance and resilience, vital skills for success. They also began to see the importance of choosing to learn beyond their comfort zone. Developing a greater sense of confidence and comfort with the uncomfortable can help students begin to see that there is no challenge too big for them to tackle.
WE CREATE ADVOCATES
Advocacy can take on many different forms that can be seen in class discussions, group projects, presentations, and student work. From student elections and speeches to local service activities to school-wide recycling initiatives, it was evident to the Mission Walkers in the “Advocates” group that students are passionate about representing and contributing to their community.
“It was impressive to see small groups of students working both independently and collectively on their project of building bridges with different materials.” Associate Director of Admissions and Enrollment Kristen Moreland reflected on her mission walk with the lens of advocacy as her group visited a 2nd Grade classroom. “Students were able to advocate for themselves and each other in their group work, and they were also incredibly enthusiastic to share what they were learning with us, which was really neat. For administrators, it’s easy to get stuck in the office and as a former teacher, I love those moments when I get to directly witness learning in the classroom. Those are the reminders for why I work in education. It was also great to see everyone, especially those whose day-to-day work doesn’t necessarily bring them into the classroom—learning, connecting, and talking together about the exciting things happening within ISB’s educational experience.”
WE SHAPE LEADERS
During the next mission walk, members of the Welcome Team found leadership embedded into many aspects of learning. In the Spanish 5th Grade class, students were presented with a fun challenge, where they could earn points for speaking in the target language outside of their academic work. On the mission walk, 5th Grade students were found taking on leadership by encouraging their classmates to rise to the collective challenge. The “Leaders” group also found Middle School students engaged in an activity where they created their own personal puzzle pieces during Advisory that they would then join together as a way to discover connections they never knew they had. The mission walk group observed that activities such as this one, help our students develop their relational intelligence, a key skill in leadership.
Entering the yard, team members also could feel the lively energy, and excitement as 7th Grade student leaders proudly presented their 3-D models of cells to their younger 4th Grade friends, who are studying the human body in their current unit of inquiry. These experiences are all shaping our student leaders as they become eager innovators dedicated to taking on challenges, exploring new ideas, and sharing them with the world.
Mission walks have invited new dialogue, increased authentic collaboration, and served as an impactful learning experience for the team. This has been a powerful way to connect administrators and faculty, and it has also served as a reminder for students that they are part of a larger community of lifelong learners. The Welcome Team is continuing to build a strong foundation for these mission walks, and it’s exciting to envision this initiative expanding in the years to come.