Accountability and Action Toward a Shared Vision

I had a chance to watch this Ted Talk from forward-thinking educator Ada McKim titled, “Why our students need to learn more about the world“. In it, McKim makes the contention that we spend a lot of time talking about our past, but conversations about our present need to be more of a reality in today’s classrooms. McKim also talks about the idea of “Purpose Based Learning”, and said something that stuck with me:

“When our students critically engage with current events and issues, and collectively craft solutions purpose will follow. And if you cannot  find that in the curriculum, I will guarantee that you will find it in the school’s mission and vision statements.”

The last part (in bold) sparked a few thoughts in my head:

  1. Who created the mission and vision statements for your school or district? (Hint…it should be built with your community, not in isolation.)
  2. Would your students actually know what it is?
  3. Where is it posted within your school?

Let’s talk about the first thought. If your “mission or vision statement” was not created by and with your community, it is something you are doing to people, not doing with people.  People are more likely to work towards a mission or vision statement if they have ownership in the creation.

To the second thought, if this is for the students, do the students a) have a say in it, and/or b) do they even know what it is?  Is the mission or vision statement made for the adults, or is it to serve the students? Too often, this is made for public relation purposes and little else. Not always, but far too often.

Finally, if this is to serve students, is it posted in places where students can see it and it promotes accountability to where we are going as a staff?  Would educators be comfortable with a student asking and pointing, “How does this fit in with this mission and vision statement?”, when it comes to things happening in classrooms?  If we cannot describe why in relation to the mission and vision statement, that what we are doing is important, is that a problem? Is this simply words on a piece of paper, or a website, or is this something we are truly aspiring to move towards?

By the way, if you make this FOR people, and you simply start posting it everywhere without getting community input, your mission and vision might as well be, “To ensure people continuously feel indignation towards leadership within their daily work.”  I have seen this practice done before with terrible results.

As Warren Bennis states:

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. - Warren Bennis

Is your “vision and mission” simply words on paper, or something that drives you (and your community) to continuous positive action?  This might be a tough question, but one that needs to be answered.

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