Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bamidbar 74 - Family and School Mission Statements

The Parasha-portion of Ba'midbar= in the wilderness   describes the structure of the Israelite camp in the desert. Each tribe had its own place and own flag. The verse Bamidbar 2:2 says - The children of Israel shall encamp, each man according to his banner/flag according to the emblem of their fathers' household, at a distance surrounding the Tabernacle
. אִישׁ עַל-דִּגְלוֹ בְאֹתֹת לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם, יַחֲנוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל  מִנֶּגֶד, סָבִיב לְאֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד יַחֲנוּ

The flags symbolized the individual characteristics and mission of each tribe, Yehuda – royalty, Issachar – Torah, Re'uvein – Repentance and Bravery etc. The individual tribes had their own flags and goals and yet they were united and complimented each other by  ' raising their flags in the name of our God' - Psalms 20:6-תהילים כ:ו וּבְשֵׁם-אֱלֹהֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל;

The tribes, like our modern day companies, organizations or   institutions had their own mission or vision statements expressed by their flags. Mission/vision statements can be very useful for both families and schools when kids participate in drawing up the statement. This conscious pledge   to live by our values is not only a unifying factor, but helps to a create a culture of compassion, of integrity, and schools and families where kids (and adults) grow to hold the well-being of the larger community in mind.

Julie Stevens of the Center of Spiritual and Ethical education shares author Marie Sherlock's suggestion of a three-step process for developing a document that can serve as a spiritual roadmap, reflective of and unique to your own family or school. First hold a values brainstorming meeting. Then hold a vision-brainstorming meeting. Finally, use notes generated in these meetings to draft a family mission statement.

A .Values Brainstorming meeting – Questions can help kids focus on the purpose of a family or school, characteristics of people, their core values and goals of individuals and the community.  Empathy, compassion, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect, courage, and responsibility, are examples of goals and virtues
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B Vision Brain-storming meeting  - Here we attach these values and core virtues to actual examples from daily life –how we live by these values,  how we can support each other , solve problems in a collaborative way and make a contribution to the community as a whole . We can then invite kids to imagine what the family, school and community at large would look like if everyone practiced these values.

C Drafting the mission/vision statement
·         Our Family Values. In our family we value the following: List each value with descriptions of each.
·         Living Our Values. Our family/school practices it values in the following ways - List each value and the different behaviors and actions that show family/school members living in concert with that value.
·         Our Family/School and World Vision. We believe that practicing these values can make a difference: List each value again and state what would happen if your family/school – and the rest of the world – practiced that value.


Family and School mission statements are in contrast with discipline approaches where things – rewards, punishments, consequences etc. are done to kids and students to control their behavior and get compliance. Family and school mission statements are examples of  ' working with ' kids to create caring communities where decisions are made together and problems are solved in a collaborative way. In this way we can promote character, ethical and moral development of the child in contrast with traditional approaches that just teach the child to ask – what are the consequences of my behavior for me and not ask how my behavior has an impact on others. 

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