Tuesday, August 19, 2014


When I was a girl at school in Australia we had school mottos. As a five year old we learnt and then would say the motto, "In knowledge we grow", in the weekly school assembly. At high school the school emblem displaying our motto, "Truth. Unity. Concord.". It was plastered over everything from school take-home notes, stamped on texted books,to adorning the exterior of buildings. 
It is probably still the same today in schools, but do schools actually have a motto nowadays that is known by their pupils? And does that motto affect the school's operations, the strategy of teachers and attitudes towards students, as they work towards making them ready to enter adult life?
"The logo is both a symbol and an introduction to the school; it tells a story about the school and reveals some of the significant values espoused by the school's community." Alfriston College.
For many schools the school motto is mixed into the Vision, Mission Statement or Purpose documents of the school.
In Judi Stell's article, "Making a Motto Meaningful in the Modern World", she says, "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”.
John Paul College include their school motto in their school crest. "Our College crest represents the values and ideals which our community upholds and which all students are encouraged to follow." As to if they are referring to the school community or wider community,it is not clear.
Elmer W, a retired school principal and author writes in an article titled, "Does your school have a motto or creed that you are committed to follow? How do you use it? What about a family motto or creed?", "I used the following school motto for many years and in many schools, as a very effective tool in communicating to children, parents, and the community that we care. At the beginning of the year, the motto, “At (Name of School) every child is important. We care about kids!” was displayed on a large bulletin board by the office. It was printed at the bottom of practically every newsletter throughout the school year. As a spin-off activity, a poster was placed on the door of every classroom with the following words and signed by the teacher, “In this classroom every child is important. I care about kids!” One way to communicate that we care is to keep saying it over and over, and the school motto is a good tool to use in doing so. Of course, we also must show that we care in as many ways as possible for the words are empty and meaningless without the substance; it is however, very important to keep saying it over and over." Elmer then closed throwing our a challenge to parents to consider a family motto that could be said together each day, and then asks if that would affect things at home.  
I have been wondering about the effects of mottos on their schools, as I drive past and read the mottos that are there on their gates. It has made me wonder what are they saying to the community about themselves?
Here is a little research of 25 school mottos around Auckland, along with the year they were founded. It's interesting to see a shift over the last 150 years, in what the founders held dear and wanted to aim their students towards.  
“Let me be of service to others” 1877
“The difficulty through the narrow” 1888–used by many other schools for the next 40 years.
“Be strong” 1903
“By love, serve” 1915
“To love, to serve” 1939
“Faith is to be saved” 1953
“A mind aware of right” 1953
“In bravery” 1955
“Look around, take everything into account” 1956
“Loyalty and courage” 1959
“The sky is open” 1960
“Worthy to hand on the torch” 1960
“Let courage be thy test” 1961
“Charity fulfills the law” 1962
“To wisdom with honour” 1963
“Character opens the way to the heavens” 1964
“Exert effort” 1968
“Innovative. Individualised. Connected.” 1970
“Building Greatness” 1972  
“Where everybody is somebody” 1972
“Equipping Individuals for lifelong learning” 1974
“Virtue mine honour” 1980
“Proud of who we are, what we know and what we can achieve” 1991  
“Faith is our compass” 2004
“Celebrate diversity” 2005
“Nurture each other, Inspire each other, Empower each other” 2010
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Does your child's school have a school motto?  Does your child know it or understand what it means? Do you agree with it? If not, maybe you can create a better one and suggest the school rethink the old one.