School mottos put focus on what’s important
Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010
Songs like “America the Beautiful" and nicknames like “Big Blue Nation” serve to unify people and create a sense of community. That’s the idea behind school mottos, too.
Mottos, pledges and mission statements are ways for schools to promote their core beliefs and ensure their students and staffs stay on track.
“This is a sense of belonging for the kids,” said Jill Blackman, the Youth Services Center coordinator at Morton Middle School. “We have a common identity, and this is what we stand for.”
Students there can’t help but be reminded to “Work hard, play fair, and take care of each other.” The familiar phrases are posted above the doors to the library, the gym and the cafeteria. The kids also hear their motto in the morning newscast and at dismissal time and see it occasionally on the marquee outside.
In addition, each month Morton features a “character moment” such as commitment, initiative or courage that always points back to the basics of the motto.
“It makes the community more cohesive, especially in middle and high school, when identity is so key,” Blackman said. “As a group, it helps the kids to understand what, as a Morton Mustang, you’re representing.”
Across town at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, students strive to “Learn daily, laugh often, lead respectfully and live responsibly.”
“It sets an expectation for the school,” said Beth Naylor, the school administrative manager. “We’re all Panthers so we’re one big team, and this is what we live by.”
In teachable moments, a motto can encourage students who fall short perhaps by shirking homework or hurting a classmate’s feelings. It can also be used in a reward system. For instance, students can earn Panther Pride points for extra effort in living up to the Panther Promise.
The Hayes staff makes sure to unpack the motto for incoming sixth-graders so they grasp the full meaning. All students hear it at schoolwide assemblies and see it on T-shirts. Parents might notice it on teachers’ e-mail signatures. And at the eighth-grade promotion ceremony, the principal usually quotes the motto – bringing the kids full circle.
A motto can be part of the larger business of shaping youngsters’ growth, including the academic, social and emotional pieces.
“In middle school, you’re developing the whole part of an adolescent. We’re taking them from little kids to teenagers,” said Kate McAnelly, principal at Beaumont.
She has noticed an underlying transformation of her whole school since students and teachers wrote and adopted the Colts Creed five years ago.
“The school is much more united, and it’s helped create a vision of not only developing strong academic skills but also the awareness that not everybody’s the same – sometimes people need help. It’s an appreciation of differences,” she said.
Beaumont’s motto – “Come prepared, obey the rules, laugh often, take care of each other, and success will follow” – is manifest in simple gestures such as a student stooping to pick up a pencil for a classmate. It also has produced effective spinoffs like the Gummy Bears Club, which reaches out to kids with special needs.
Indeed, a motto can be an anchor for a school, its staff and students.
As McAnelly said, “We try to live and breathe by ours.”
Did you know?
The motto for Fayette County Public Schools is “It’s About Kids.” The idea is everything that is done and every decision made must be based on what is best for the students.