How long have I used the terms “vision” and “division” in schools and not seen both the linguistic and practical dissonance between the two?
Schools craft vision statements that are often short, full of pithy words, and meant to coalesce a unique sense of the community’s priorities and direction. In my experience with many schools, few members of the school community know the key elements of the school vision, and few therefore consider it when thinking about what they do each day to support that vision.
Alternately, those schools where many adults know, understand, and feel an allegiance to the school’s vision are the schools that stand out as leaders in innovation…they have developed a system where more people are pulling on a common oar.
Part of the problem is with vision statements themselves. Someone, sometime, convinced schools that vision statements need to be really short; they end up cramming a bunch of hopefully meaningful words in a few sentences, which end up all sounding the same and meaning little. I argue that a vision statement that clearly articulates the unique ethnography, hopes, dreams, and aspirations of a school might take a couple of pages…and provide the school real direction around which to coalesce bold actions.
In a discussion with a school head this week, it hit me (duh) the obvious dissonance between the simple words we use at schools. “Vision” is a tool to align the resources of the organization towards a single purpose that builds value…it is a tool to get us all pulling on the same oar. “Divisions” in schools, those quanta of grade levels by which we have organized and silo-ized ourselves, are, by the very form of the word divisive and dividing… “di-visioning”.
Here are the questions for school leaders to ask: how much do your faculty and staff feel allegiance to an overall school vision, and how much allegiance do they feel to their division? Do the provincial interests of your divisions (use of time and space, for example) collectively support or often hamper your vision of “school” in the future? Are division leaders generally supportive of, or dampeners on, innovation and change?
From the vision statement of Miami Valley School:
Perhaps most importantly, the collegial connections that make our school happy, productive, and forward-looking, will break down what separates us…across grade level, division, subject, student, teacher, parent, community…and build up what unites us: implementation of our collective vision.