Making a motto meaningful in the modern world

| November 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Judi Steel

At Christ Church Preparatory School and College, we regularly ask: “What is the purpose of a school motto and how can it guide our school today?”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a motto as “a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals on an individual, family or institution”. Ours is ‘To serve and to lead’, and this reflects our school’s Christian ethos. Although many mottoes are Latin or French, as a modern, diverse, Midrand Gauteng-based, South African independent school, we decided to choose an English message simple enough to inspire all our students, and yet humble enough to echo our beliefs and reflect our core values. Our motto is like a lamp in the darkness: we can manage without it, but life is so much more rewarding if we choose to follow the light.

Motto gives rise to core values

In our school community, Principal Dave Bell and Deputy Principal Lisle Twaddle both serve and lead effectively. Their guidance ensures that communication is kept open between both the teaching and non-teaching staff, and teachers, parents and learners. They also ‘lead’ the way to show that leading doesn’t just mean getting others to do the job; it often means mucking in to assist. Picking up litter is a tiny example of leading by example. If our learners see a teacher doing this, then they follow suit – and so we have a whole school that both serves and leads.

Who are we leading, and who are we serving?

We aim to maximise the individual potential of every child who comes through our school gates. Whereas a young person may not perceive him or herself to be a natural leader, he or she could well be chosen to lead a group in some school context. The old adage of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link comes to mind – because when one is leading, they are naturally also serving others. This becomes more important as students reach high school and then realise that they are being trained to embark on careers outside the confines of classrooms, in which we trust that they will do justice to both serving and leading.

To change one’s own life as well as the lives of others, we each need to ask ourselves, on a regular basis: “Who are we serving?” Whether we like it or not, we each serve someone on a daily basis – many of us without even realising it. We are unique, and serving isn’t always easy. However, if we cannot do the task of serving, how do we think we are going to be able to lead? Our motto reminds us of a ‘push-mepull- me’ scenario. Sometimes we need to push from the bottom to ensure that each one takes the next step up, but we also have to pull from the top so that new leaders are made.

This generation still understands the need for service leadership

In today’s fast-paced world, we now have Generation Y learners to consider and, as we know, their world revolves around ‘instant everything’. Learners today think anything older than 24 hours is ancient history, and that fun is a serious business that you can’t work without. The positive news about this generation, though, is that they still believe that leadership is vital. They understand that not everyone can lead, but are all required to serve. Thus our motto is one of which we are extremely proud, and we believe it can inspire not only this generation, but the others that follow.

Category: Summer 2011

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