Friday, May 23, 2014

What Is Your Vision?


As educators, especially those of us in leadership positions, one of the first things we are asked to consider is the Vision Statement for our school. You know what I am talking about... that bulleted list of generic phrases and words trying to capture what the schooling experience will be like for children. Here is an example in case it's been a while since you looked at your own vision statement...

Our vision is that children leave school with: 

A set of values -- being honesty, being determined and being considerate of others. 
A set of basic skills -- literacy, mathematical, scientific, artistic and social. 
Strong self-esteem and developed self-confidence. 
Tolerance and respect for others. 
We value the partnership which exists between school, families and our community in realizing this vision. 

WOW... those all sound like some pretty wonderful and important aspects in the development of a child. But, I have a bunch of questions and concerns...

  • Is there anything in that vision statement that makes identifiable to a specific school? (Sounds pretty generic)
  • What exactly does all the stuff described in the vision statement look like? 
  • What does being determined look like? 
  • How do we teach children about their levels of self-confidence? 
  • What role do the students play in this vision aside from being on the receiving end? 
  • Is this vision happening to kids and the community or are all constituent groups actively part of the process? 

The list of questions could go on and on but you get the idea - what is the point of this vision statement and what does it really mean for a school community? This is something I had been struggling with for years at our school because I wasn't quite sure about the best way to capture and represent our vision statement. There was one in place when I arrived six years and I made a decision to leave that one alone until I was in the school long enough to develop solid connections with every member of the community and to significantly impact and shape the tone and culture of the building. Well, at the start of this year, my sixth year at Cantiague, I decided this was the year to tackle the dreaded vision statement because I think we had finally achieved a group understanding of our vision and the direction we wanted to go with our vision!

from likeateam

So, at the start of the year, our Shared Decision Making Team was charged with this important task... re-write and re-create the Cantiague Elementary School Vision Statement. Our Shared Decision Making Team is comprised of six staff members, four parents, two students and me. We started by listing words that we felt best described Cantiague and the Cantiague experience. Generating that list (ended up being about 100 words and phrases) and then narrowing it down was quite a process that involved surveys, discussions, more surveys and follow-up discussion. It literally took us months to decide which words and phrases best captured the Cantiague experience for kids. After deciding on the words that best fit Cantiague (the students on the team really helped refine the list from their vantage point) we then shifted the conversation to what our vision statement should actually look like... will we generate that bulleted list? Maybe write it in a different way? Or go in a completely different direction and create a Wordle that would permanently be visible on our website. Although it was a great discussion, we had a tough time coming to a conclusion!

After a month of discussion on this topic, the team kept coming back to the power of our Cantiague Video Updates (check out the latest one here). The feeling was that a video might best capture the Cantiague experience and would allow us to actually show, with images, what the vision statement looks like in school. Well, thanks to the hard work of three team members - Katie, CaseyLisa and the rest of the Shared Decision Making Team - the Cantiague Vision Statement went from an idea to a video reality. Check it out and please leave a comment below letting us know what you think about our vision and ask yourself, What is your vision?    


  1. Tony, I think this is amazing! You must be so incredibly proud of your SDM team. Now, as always, you've got me thinking...

  2. Tony,
    This is such a powerful way of showing and sharing the vision of your school. Now we must begin to develop one here in Merton.

  3. Tony, thank you for sharing your vision statement process. It is important. What's even more important, in my view, are the actions the school community commits to that flow from the vision statement. How will you make the vision a reality?