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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

What Is Your School Turning Into?

I came across a line in an article I read a few days ago that has stuck with me all week.

Writing about the way in which consumer choices are increasingly linked to the idea of “becoming” and “personal transformation”, Jasmine Bina explains how, when speaking to people around the world, she kept hearing the same thing:

Whether it was Zurich, London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong or Tokyo — people didn’t tell me who they were. They told me who they were turning into.

If we are to properly understand consumer choice, Bina concludes, we must therefore get to grips with the fact that today’s consumer “is constantly growing into someone new” and wants to associate themselves with people, companies, and organisations that help them reach their goals, achieve their ambitions, and realise their dreams. Today’s economy, in other words, is founded upon the interconnected ideas of becoming and transformation.

But it was this one line that stayed with me: People didn’t tell me who they were. They told me who they were turning into.

It reminded me of the line in Jerry Maguire when Dorothy declares, “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.”

It also reminded me of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who famously described life as a river, in a constant state of flux. The best way to understand who we are, he said, is to understand ourselves as in a constant state of becoming.

A photograph of different stages of a caterpillar's transformation into a butterfly

So while the idea of becoming may not be entirely new, whether to the philosophers or even the occasional Hollywood romantic comedy, it might be worth considering what this all means when it comes to prospective families engaging with our schools.

Specifically, let’s think about our school websites.

I’ve always believed that those school websites that only give information are flat and one-dimensional. A school website should rather exist in the middle distance between what the institution is and what it wants to be. After all, if Bina and others like her are correct in their belief that we are living in the shadow of the Transformation Economy, then it follows that today’s prospective families are likely to be more engaged if we take the time to speak and write about who we are turning into, not just describing who we are.

And no, this doesn’t mean just inserting an additional page in the “About” section that lists the various elements of our strategic plan. I think it’s more than that. I think it starts on the homepage. I think it begins by taking a risk and articulating what Jim Collins once called our “big, hairy, audacious goal.” So when a family meets us for the first time, they get to know us and love us, not for what we are (which is likely the same or similar to every other school along the street), but for the school we want to be and the school we almost are.

So who are you turning into?

1 comment

1 Comment

Mary Langford
Mary Langford
Feb 19, 2023

I think many IB schools miss a trick here. I did my first doctoral paper (at U Bath about 3 years ago) entited ‘To Create a Better and More Peaceful World’: Do parents value the International Baccalaureate Mission to promote transformative education?

The underlying question was did parents even know what the mission was, and to what extent parents valued the IB Learner Profile that should underpins all that an IB School and all of its Stakeholders do and what I believe are the key to delivering the Mission. The Mission is ' IB develops inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through education that builds intercultural understanding and respect.' …

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