Anytime I hear the words “on a mission” I have to append the words “from God”. Probably because I live in Chicago and have watched the Blues Brothers way too many times. But I digress.

Dave Warlick has posted up an interesting story. I won’t even bother to summarize it, you can read it for yourself, but he makes a great point.

Now, I tell this story so that I can distinguish between job and mission. Lori and Joe were doing their jobs. The did the tasks they were asked to do and they did them well. Samantha, on the other hand, had a mission. She did her job, but she had a mission to assure that people, who were away from home, navigating airports, schedules, baggage, impossible to read tickets, delays, and frequently cramped conditions — that these people had as successful, stressless, and joyous travel experience as possible. This was her mission and for me, she succeeded.

My question is, are our students on a mission, or are they doing their jobs. Can we teach our children to accomplish missions from the way that we teach them, the assignments we give them, the ways that we assess their success, how we listen to them as they express what they have learned, what they believe, and the conclusions that they have discovered.

I belive that most classrooms have their students working on jobs. You can clearly see when a student is on a mission. That’s when you hear stories in the teachers lounge like “All I assigned was for her to do a report about Egypt and she went WAY beyond the assignment” or “After school I heard the kids arguing over a passage in the play that hadn’t even been assigned yet!” I see students on a mission all the time. Students teaching themselves Garageband so they can put in their own music into a movie they’re working on. Or when they use a blog to write their thoughts about a book their reading that has nothing to do with class.

I think one of the distinctions between missions and jobs are the rewards. A job has an extrinsic reward whereas a mission has an intrinsic reward.

I think assigning our students jobs can cripple them in the long run.