Teaching Opinion

Have a Clear Vision as a Leader to Enable Success

By Starr Sackstein — July 30, 2017 3 min read
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When we travel through life without a defined purpose, it can often challenge our every day existence.

Figuring out what makes us tick, what matters and then clearly articulating it brings important life goals into focus. It’s that meaning that then drives our day-to-day work and offers depth to our experiences.

The same is true for schools and leadership.

In order for a school community to thrive, there needs to be a shared, clear vision that helps to focus the mission. This action plan will help assert forward movement and develop a closer and more effective thread in the stakeholders within the district.

But a leader alone can’t establish or develop this vision, it must be a group effort that grows and matures over time. We simply can’t just write it and let it languish; we must nurture it and adjust it as we move along our path to ensure that we are staying faithful to what works best for our kids, in each of our communities.

And since growth requires constant change, we need to be able to adjust the vision and mission to the time we are currently working in.

So how can a school community develop an excellent vision and mission statement? You have to get everyone involved.

Check out what Michele Corbat, Principal of Moorish Elementary in the Swartz Creek Community Schools in Michigan shared about her school community’s process, implementation, and commitment to their school’s vision. Michele also shared the link to her school district’s final statement. Check it out here. It was from this vision work that the Monday night #COLchat (Culture of Learning) was born and the continued conversation about a culture of learning happens.

Equally as important as writing a collective statement that supports the learning vision for your school community, is making sure that the learning and work is aligned with that agreed upon vision as much of the time as possible.

Amy Wrenick Smith, teacher said that “all staff and students say the mission statement as a part of [their] morning tradition every day.”

Jay Eitner, superintendent said, “I’m currently writing my third vision and mission statement. They have to be simplistic, meaningful, and have buy in. I have my board members take a turn reading it into the minutes each month as a reminder as to why we are here doing what we do. I also have it posted in every classroom in a visible place so all are cognizant of why we do what we do.”

Gary Kidd shared, “Our mantra became Care, Share, Dare. (C, S, D, Center School District...) Care was our commitment to our people, Share was our commitment to partnership, Dare was our commitment to excellence. It was a great run, and made a difference!”

These are some different ways to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of what the vision is beyond making posters and simply plastering them around the building. Although it’s good to have the visual reminder, it isn’t enough. The vision and mission must be pervasive in what is happening daily.

Ernie Rambo, retired teacher said, “My failed mission was to convince all stakeholders that we needed to work on creating our vision. Without vision, mission is empty.” I suspect that many folks in school communities feel this way. If we don’t know what our collective vision is in a school community, growth and change will be more challenging. As Ernie suggests, without a vision a mission is empty.

As we continue to grow education in this century, we need to make sure that our visions are evolving as we seek to cultivate lifelong learners aligned with those visions.

Thank you to everyone who shared their school visions with me. There is a lot of great stuff out there and as I continue to move into my leadership journey, I’m committing to keep my personal, and collective vision clear so that my actions can clearly and transparently align with the work we are doing.

Visions and missions are living parts of a functioning school community and we must treat them with care and clarity. As new leaders and community stakeholders get involved, it’s appropriate and necessary to make adjustments.

Make sure your vision is more than an idea created in isolation decades ago, make sure it is the lens through which important decisions are made for the betterment of your kids.

What is the vision of your school community? How does it resonate for the stakeholders? How do you know? Please share.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.