We are known by the promises we make to others. We are known for the promises that we keep too. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a microcosm of both, and I am glad that it exists. This story isn’t one about a single person, or a single school, but rather it is the story of documenting our relationships people and schools.
A “memorandum” is something we are choosing to write down. It is something that is intentional and has purpose. We intend to use it, both right now and in the future. It is something we can go back to and look at from all perspectives. The “understanding” is our common ground. It is the shared space that we all get to work from. It is the connection held between us that allows for the relationship to take place. Without understanding we have no conduit for shared respect and open dialogue, without the memorandum we have no record of our ever having reached understanding.
That is why this construct is special. In looking at the MoU between a school and my team, certain things jumped out at me. I first saw timelines and promises of money or support. But as I looked closer, I saw the understanding that laid beneath it. It was a document of change, of EXchange. We are both giving and getting in the equation, but it isn’t quite a transaction. Neither of us believes we are getting the “better end of the deal.” Rather, we are looking out into the future and writing down what we see.
It is both promise and wish.
We are promising to one another that we will be true to our commitments, but we are wishing that the continued collaboration bears fruit and the change manifests itself in ways we haven’t envisioned. This Memorandum of Understanding doesn’t hold us accountable. Clearly, we are responsible for doing that for ourselves. Instead, the MoU is the reminder of what our promises and accountability is for: learning from one another.
It is this learning that gets me most excited. It is the chance to join ourselves to others by officially agreeing to learn. The memorandum sets the stage, and the promises provide the structure, but it is the learning that creates change.
So, I would like to construct a memorandum of understanding with each of you. I would like to set the stage for our relationship, commit to supporting you, and then learn from you in order to change our district for the better. They may be my own personal MoUs, but they are no less important for working together than the ones stored in our official documents. I would like to be known for making these promises, and for keeping them too.