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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

The Hero-Parent and Lifecycle of Engagement

When people ask me what I do for a living, I often respond by saying that I tell the story of the school and help others find their place in this story.

Story, as I’ve described elsewhere, is one of the three pillars of educational advancement.

If we are going to take the importance of story seriously, however, we might also want to consider Joseph Campbell’s idea of the Hero with a thousand faces.

Simply put, Campbell believed that every story has a hero and that the hero’s journey follows a consistent path across space and time. In other words, even if the hero changes and the story unfolds against a different landscape, the plot is somehow always the same.

Now if we overlay this idea on to the notion of helping people find their place in the story of our schools, then we can perhaps agree that there is a universal lifecycle of engagement at work, a path that leads all school community members from Attraction to Departure (which is also, as it happens, an Arrival into the broader community of our school alumni).

The Lifecycle of School Engagement
The Lifecycle of School Engagement: A universal story path for advancement.

When I first developed this model, more than a decade ago now, it was essentially a mechanism to work out in my head why admissions, communications and development colleagues tended to sit in the room together. The model helped me see the red thread that connected our day-to-day tasks.

Re-visiting the work of Joseph Campbell, however, has taught me something new about the universal nature of the experience we invite families into each day. It has encouraged me to believe that it might just be possible to spot patterns and find coherence in our advancement efforts, whatever the landscape of the school in which we work; and that we might be ready to begin to articulate a series of universal elements underwriting those patterns.

It has also reminded me that, in the end, the parents – and their children, of course – are the real heroes of our story.

And that’s perhaps the most important lesson of all.

Cover photo by David Marcu on Unsplash


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