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A How to Match Our Why

Nov 09, 2021

by Aubrey Patterson


Jerry walked into the new principal's office and nonchalantly offered a leadership gem that would reframe every future conversation in the school about mission, vision, and values.

He shared a huge smile and opened with a simple, "I'm Jerry."

The new principal returned the smile, introduced himself, and asked awkwardly, “I’m sorry, Jerry, but what do you do?”

Jerry's face brightened even more. “I help the kids learn by keeping things clean around here and making sure everyone can safely get around."

A how to match our why.

How many adults in our schools could finish this stem?

I help kids learn by ____.

Perhaps we want to include part of our current mission statement and let each adult complete a sentence that ties them to the why of the school or district?

I help kids learn and become an exceptional citizen in a vibrant school by _____.

Shouldn’t everyone working in education be able to easily complete these statements?

And shouldn't every current action, big or small, further actualize our why?

The computer technician helps kids learn by ensuring all the software updates are running today. The secretary helps kids learn by choosing a kind voice and keeping parents connected with a newsletter that's going home later this week. The principal helps kids learn by removing obstacles in a meeting this afternoon.

Imagine the clarity and synergy if we always had a how to match our why.


Jerry is real and his introduction became part of hundreds of conversations in a district that aligned its hows and whys.

Now, Jerry was far from perfect as a custodian. The storeroom was a disaster, he couldn’t level a bulletin board, and he regularly forgot to lock the shed.

But the desks and lockers were spotless, the floors clean and dry, and he knew every one of the kids and staff by name.

He was good when and where it mattered most.

Jerry helped kids learn.


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