Gabriel and Paul C. Farmer Table of Contents Chapter 2. Developing a Vision and a Mission Imagine that you have a rare weekend without any professional responsibilities: To take advantage of this unexpected free time, you and three friends decide to go on a fishing excursion to a lake known as one of the best largemouth bass habitats in the eastern United States.
Through e-mail messages, telephone conversations, and brief get-togethers, the four of you coordinate transportation, lodging, the time of departure, and other details. It would seem reasonable to assume that you were all going with ambitions to catch largemouth bass. However, what would happen to the trip's camaraderie and outcome if each person's vision of the weekend differed from that assumption?
What if one person plans to spot eagles, another is looking for lakefront property, and a third hopes to catch anything that will pull on the line, while you are there for sun and leisure? You could have avoided any confusion and better harnessed efforts by explicitly asking your companions during the planning stages, What is the actual purpose of the trip?
What are the goals of the attendees? What does everyone envision for the weekend? Has everyone shared these things with one another? Whatever the context, the point is the same: With a couple of word substitutions, you could ask those bulleted questions of any leadership team or department in your school. If the team has a healthy culture, its members would likely give similar answers. Stopping to confirm common goals among the stakeholders will help the team meet its objectives.
Developing strong vision and mission statements can help stakeholders in your school reach such a common understanding. A vision is your school's goal—where you hope to see it in the future. The mission provides an overview of the steps planned to achieve that future. A vision is concise and easy to recall, whereas a mission is lengthier and more explanatory in nature. Your school may also want to establish targets along the way to measure progress toward its vision.
We begin this chapter with developing your school's vision, because you need to know where you want to be before you can determine how you plan to get there. Drafting the Vision Statement According to the Task Force on Developing Research in Educational Leadership , "Effective educational leaders help their schools to develop or endorse visions that embody the best thinking about teaching and learning.
School leaders inspire others to reach for ambitious goals" p. Your school must have a vision that all staff members recognize as a common direction of growth, something that inspires them to be better. An effective vision also announces to parents and students where you are heading and why they should take the trip with you. Without a vision, your school lacks direction. As the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca observed, "If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind.
A common understanding of the destination allows all stakeholders to align their improvement efforts. And the best part of planning for this journey is that it doesn't cost anything to decide where you want to go. One of the most important responsibilities of any leader is establishing a vision and inviting others to share in its development. As important as the vision is, we have found that keeping it alive throughout the year is not an easy task.
For you to get the most out of your vision, you must first remove the barriers from making it an integral, vibrant facet of the school community. Eliminate Obstacles One of the first obstacles that will come up is people's fear of change.
Creating or adjusting a vision statement is an unmistakable indicator of imminent change. It is helpful to have an idea of the internal dialogues your staff members will likely be having before, during, and even after the development of the new vision. This also applies to the development of a new mission. Listening to and validating staff members' thoughts will help them cope with the change as they ask themselves the following questions: What is the need for a new vision?
Will I be able to live with the new vision? Will I be able to support the new vision? What will the new vision expect of me? How will my world change as a result? Will I be able to continue doing what I've always done? Why or why not? Do I believe in this new vision? Do I believe in my school's ability to achieve this vision?
Do I believe I can help make the vision happen? Another potential obstacle to creating a powerful vision is the reality that vision statements are often created perfunctorily and lack follow-through.
They are usually the result of a directive to "get it done" by a certain date and delivered to a central office supervisor. Such directives often lead to vision statements that have been created in a rush by one person or by a small group of individuals with no input from other stakeholders.
Such statements are rarely understood or acknowledged by others in the school, and who can blame them? The process precludes genuine buy-in. Although school leadership must have a vision for the future, it should be used as a way to open up a dialogue rather than be handed down from on high. Don't rush the vision statement; doing so leads to skepticism, stress, and distrust, which will lead to a statement that will eventually be ignored.
Because these closed approaches to developing vision statements are incredibly common, most staff members are turned off by the mere mention of the words vision and mission and groan at the prospect of yet another initiative that will eventually be forgotten—that after a flurry of activity, the vision will be shelved alongside the school improvement plan, out of the reach and off the minds of staff members. Because they had little involvement in it, they see no real reason to dedicate themselves to it.
If setbacks occur along the way, most will shrug their shoulders because they weren't committed and invested in the first place. You can avoid these obstacles by creating a fresh and meaningful vision statement with the involvement of the entire faculty. The collective force and talent of the faculty is more likely to be realized when there is a common understanding of a shared vision.
As Bamburg notes, "The schools that have been most successful in addressing and increasing the academic achievement of their students have benefited from a clarity of purpose that is grounded in a shared set of core values" p. We define values as the behaviors, beliefs, and actions that a school finds important. Ask yourself, Do I understand what this organization values, believes in, and hopes to be? The size of most schools' faculties prevents them from being as productive or as effective as smaller groups, but their full investment is still crucial.
We recommend that you first form a team that, with training and guidance, will introduce the concept of a vision, facilitate and engage faculty in the process of writing one, and synthesize the multiple values and visions that the faculty develops.
Ultimately, this team is the one putting together the pieces of the puzzle. This team may be made up of the members of the shared leadership team, or it could be composed of other staff members in the building as long as all departments are represented. Opting for the latter provides leadership opportunities for staff members who are not already formal teacher leaders. For our purposes here, we will refer to this collection of leaders as the vision oversight team.
Share Examples of Vision Statements When you meet with the vision oversight team, sharing examples of vision statements with them is an important first step. This will help them better understand what a vision statement is, which in turn will help them assist the faculty when they facilitate its work. It's easy to find examples of real vision statements on the Internet. Here are a few to start with: Every Battlefield High School student will achieve personal success and become a responsible and productive citizen.
The Richard Montgomery cluster will work collaboratively to ensure all students succeed. Placing the highest priority on reading and writing instruction will support consistent student achievement so that all students attain grade-level or higher performance levels annually, as measured by county, state, and national assessments.
Our vision, as a community, is to inspire a passion for learning. All Potomac Senior High School students will achieve personal success in their learning and become responsible and productive citizens. At Brentsville District we believe that all students can learn to their fullest potential. Student learning will be enhanced by national, global, and multicultural perspectives. Graduates will possess the basic knowledge and skills that will assure their proficiency in problem solving and technology.
They will be responsible citizens, lifelong learners, and will be prepared for a variety of postgraduation options. We will devote our human resources and technology to create superior products and services, thereby contributing to a better global society. Our vision for the future is to be the customer's first and best choice in the products and services we provide.
There is a "Marriott Way. Marriott's fundamental beliefs are enduring and the keys to its continued success. You can ask the following questions to generate some dialogue on the statements: What patterns do you see in the statements? What do you like or dislike in the statements? Are the statements easy to understand?
Are the statements too vague, or are they specific enough? Are they too long? Do the statements express an idea or a hope for the future? Are they too unambitious? Too "pie in the sky"? Do they contain adjectives or goals that are more appropriate for a mission statement? Do they clarify a direction for the school and for its improvement efforts? You should also make sure to have copies of your school's current vision statement at the meeting so that participants can compare it with the examples.
By discussing the current statement, the sample statements, the bulleted questions, and pertinent articles that you might wish to share as well, the vision oversight team should be able to reach an understanding of what makes a strong vision statement.