Our Willowstone Academy manifesto transformed our school’s culture and here’s why we think every school needs one!

We crafted our manifesto 4 years ago and it is still serving our community brilliantly!  Our manifesto paints a powerful picture of our school.  It was professionally designed by Roselyn Minnes and is visually appealing. A framed, full-colour version hangs in every classroom and a 6-foot version adorns our main school staircase.  Over the last several years, we’ve also produced videos to support our manifesto’s messaging.  Our school culture is centred on “being, becoming, and believing” these words:

Crafting a Manifesto Invites Listening

During our 4 month process, we listened to every group in our school: teachers, students, parents, administration, school board, and broader community members.  During these meetings, we asked questions about what people love about our school, what makes an ideal learning community, and how to describe that lived experience.  We digested, synthesized, and curated ideas and language each time.  The journey was artful.

During the process, beautiful ‘Aha! moments’ happened.  I remember walking down the stairs after a teacher collaboration meeting with one of my master teachers.  She asked quizzically and humbly,

“We always discuss how to meet students’ individual needs.  Our student-centred focus is great and necessary, but I’m not sure it’s the whole picture.  I wonder if we should balance personalizing learning with teaching children how to belong, have healthy relationships, and be connected authentically with others?”

EUREKA!  “Entwined with humanity” and “being at the table” are key phrases for the lived experience of learning to get along well with others.  It is crucial in our community.

Also, it takes time, effort, and focus to include and invite student voices forward.  Student voices shape the outcomes of our work.  We are proud of this beauty as well.

This calibre of depth arrives through deep listening.

A Manifesto Defines the Roots

In his book, High Performance Habits, Brendan Burchard defines ‘Clarity’ as an essential habit for leaders and their organizations.  He writes,

“It’s [clarity] about how you think about tomorrow and what you do to stay connected with what matters today.  The essential habit of seeking clarity helps high performers keep engaged, growing, and fulfilled over the long haul.”

It is the same for non-profits.  Schools, Principals, and Teachers benefit when we clarify our roots: the purposes, outcomes, hopes, and dreams.  The definitions of what is core or fundamental give us the security and safety we need.  It propels us to innovate, progress, and become more than we can imagine today.

Will your words get thrown back at you if you don’t deliver?  Absolutely.  That’s the risk.  Yet, if we reframe the feedback as an invitation to grow and improve, we can support our community in its forward momentum.

Again, this feels like a deepening process, to clarify what matters most.

A Manifesto Creates a Springboard

Our manifesto offers keywords and memorable phrases that permeate our school.  You can find them on whiteboards, in report cards, and on our social media platforms.  These words are emotionally evocative, true, aspirational, and compelling all in the same breath.  Using these words transforms our intentions into experiences.

The most poignant example of how the written words offered our school a springboard are the words, “Learn Forward.”  When we wrote those words for the first time in our manifesto, we were defining our willingness to grow and change.  They were a whisper of what is deepest in our community, the rich learning.  In our hearts, we wanted to be progressive, innovative, and forward-thinking for the sake of the children.

These two words became my book, a new platform, a philosophy of human growth and development, and the framework for our signature pedagogy.  We are now designing a thriving community around these words and we offer them to other schools, educators, and learning communities to support the work of education more broadly.

So, it is our wish…together…

Learn Forward,

Karine

PS If you are interested in chatting with us directly about how your school could craft a manifesto, our team offers a free 30-minute consultation to serve you further.