5 ways schools get vision wrong and what to do about it …
If your vision can fit onto a tee shirt, you have work to do …
If your vision is placed on a banner, it’s not real …
If your staff doesn’t know what the vision is and where you are headed, your vision is not being lived out …
If your vision is the same as the school down the street, and the next school, and the next, then your vision is meaningless …
If your vision incorporates buzz words (e.g. 21st century learners, innovation, all learners, every child, global community, and so on …), then it most likely isn’t creating a buzz in your school …
Mistake #1: Vision that lacks depth.
Vision is not a slogan. That’s why it doesn’t go on a tee shirt.
A motto goes on a tee shirt like “Everyone wins when a leader gets better. Everyone wins when you get better.”
Years ago, I learned an idea from Cameron Herald called a “Vivid Vision.”
This fresh new perspective on vision is robust, looking at your organization through many different perspectives.
The thought of putting it on a tee shirt is silly (it would never fit unless you used a 4 point font).
How to fix this mistake: Read Cameron’s book, Vivid Vision and implement the ideas for your school.
Mistake #2: Vision created to look good or sound good.
Vision is not beautiful graphic design. It’s easy to make something look great and slap it up on the wall of the school.
It’s difficult to create something that has a shared purpose and inspires all who think about it.
If a vision exists in the halls, but not in the hearts of all the humans involved, then what is the point of the vision?
How to fix this mistake: Stop thinking of branding, banners, and making things beautiful when it comes to vision. Instead, create something so remarkable it spreads by word of mouth.
Mistake #3: Vision that lacks direction.
Vision provides direction.
Seneca said, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, then no wind is favorable.”
Leaders are often frustrated with ten educators going in ten different directions within the school. This lack of alignment illustrates a lack of vision.
If you truly had a meaningful vision and sticky core values, then you could ground every conversation in that context. It would provide the ideas of what to celebrate and what to correct.
How to fix this mistake: Slow things down. Keep iterating your vision and do the hard work of discovering what your stakeholders believe is the right direction for the school. You don’t have the answer to this unless you listen and listen some more.
Mistake #4: An uninspiring vision.
All kids … yadda, yadda yadda …
Every student … bleep, blop, bloop.
These are platitudes. They are overused and have lost all meaning. And yet, many schools incorporate these ideas into their vision.
But if these ideas do not inspire, then why do we include them?
We think they sound nice and the school down the street is providing a rigorous education for “every student” so we have to do that as well.
The funniest bit: your parents don’t care if every student receives an excellent education. They care that their child receives an excellent education.
How to fix this mistake: Create a vision that is specific to your students and just as nuanced and diverse as they are.
Mistake #5: Your vision lacks excitement
Many visions include buzz words, but do not create a buzz on your campus.
Be wary of words like:
- 21st century (… so futuristic)
- Global community (… hug a tree on your own time!)
- Innovation (… you are not Steve Jobs)
- SEL (… big hearts, big farts)
- And so on …
Just like mistake #4, schools often fall into the trap of writing a vision they think sounds good. The problem is that it is uninspiring.
“Inspiring,” looks like Tom’s shoes giving away a pair to someone who doesn’t have shoes for every pair purchased.
Warby Parker does something similar with eyeglasses.
Patagonia actually tells you not to buy their new clothes and to repair your old gear to protect the planet and to practice sustainable ways of living.
That is inspiring.
What if a school set out to eradicate hunger in their community?
How would a school go about doing that?
What lessons in science, math, civics, and so on would need to be taught to live out that vision?
And if they accomplished it? Now that would be remarkable!
How to fix this mistake: Incorporate real world problems that your school wants to solve in your vision. Nothing is more impactful than making education relevant — not to your students’ future lives — but to their lives right now.
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