Vivid Vision: From School Vision to Action

Vivid Vision for School Vision Statements - Mafost

It’s easy to write a vision statement. It’s an altogether different task to create a vision. A vision compels, it empowers, it paints the future in living colors.

Every organization has statements.

Plans, goals, missions, vision statements, etc…

But a statement is not the same as a vision. What’s more, we need action that propels a school towards its vision.

That’s why I’d like to share what it means to create a vivid vision and show some concrete examples.

A Vision statement can be worth less than the paper it's printed on if it's not a vivid vision that's actionable.

Creating a Vivid Vision

Vision is about the future. Where will your school be? What will it look like, feel like, sound like? What is success for your school?

Vision is about a very simple factor: the ability to see where you’re going. Let’s take a look at Daniel Bauer’s thoughts on vivid vision:

Strong visions are incredibly detailed and act as a magnet attracting the right people to your organization and pulling them along the journey.

In Daniel’s post on the topic (read more here), he asserts that a vision should be more than just a slogan or something to plaster on a T-shirt.

A vivid vision should detail the ins and outs of where your school is heading and do it in such a way that actions can ensue.

Let’s imagine two schools and their vision statements.

Vivid Vision Example 1

In ABC Elementary School, they had the following vision statement, which you’ll notice as the typical school vision:

Creating life-long learners prepared for 21st-century opportunites.

Okay, I can see. ABC Elementary School is thinking about the future. You and I both know about wishful thinking. It’s not the same as an actionable vision.

Let’s try to flesh out the vision into more vivid terms.

ABC Elementary is a caring and performance-driven school where learners explore science and technology to solve unique problems.

This vision is starting to develop some real muscle. Look at the actionable ideas already present:

  • Caring
  • Performance-driven
  • Learners (instead of students, includes adults too)
  • Focused on science and technology
  • Problem-based

How is this vision statement more vivid? How does it lend itself to actions?

Concept in VisionActions
CaringWhat dispositions, programs, and supports will be needed to create a “caring” climate?
How will the school measure “caring”?
Performance-drivenIn what ways will the school create a focus on results?
What key metrics will be used to gauge “performance”?
LearnersWho are the learners?
How will learning be central to all meetings, time, and activities?
Science and TechnologyWill it be integrated throughout the curriculum?
How will programs and time be organized to make science and technology the central focus?
Problem-BasedWill this be the mode of instruction?
How will problems be discovered, explored, and shared?

Already, the vision lends itself to more vivid and concrete actions.

Vivid Vision Examples in Schools

Let’s take a look at two more examples and highlight ways that the vision can be actionable.

DEF Middle School is a fictitious suburban school of 750 students in grades 6-8. Their vision statement was:

DEF Middle School
A community of learners.

But after creating a more vivid vision, it becomes:

DEF Middle School
We will be the community of choice for learning in all areas of life.

Now, I’m not completely happy with this vision, but it’s an improvement, and I’ll flesh it out in the section below.

And one last example.

GHI High School is an urban school serving low-income zip codes in an East coast town.

GHI High School
[No vision statement found]

Yep. There are plenty of schools that simply don’t even have a vision statement.

GHI High School
We are a gateway for young adults to enter adulthood with a passion for learning and deep understanding of who they are as individuals within a larger community.

What do these vision statements look like in action? Let’s take a few more paragraphs to flesh it out.

Actionable Statements

A school vision is pointless if it doesn’t define you. Every school has learners. Every school is a community. But what uniquely defines you?

Being a community of learners is not unique. It’s not a vision. It’s just a statement.

When the school affirms, “We will be the community of choice for learning in all areas of life” there is now a vision.

A school with this type of vision might create a variety of curricular choices for students and for staff. Here’s an actual example from the Nohea article, Professional Learning Menus:

For many years, we have worked hard to build the capacity of our teachers so they can differentiate to the diverse needs of students in the classroom. The impact of this differentiation has been clear as students feel that the learning journey is more tailored to them individually.

How could we build the capacity of coaches and principals to do the same with the adult learners in our buildings? The end result would be empowered teachers who recognize the personal investment that is being made in them.

In that example, the school is acting on the vision of creating choice. If the vivid vision is the appropriate “chunk of the future” it will take 3-5 years to fully act on.

Let’s move to the GHI High School example from the previous section.

GHI High School
We are a gateway for young adults to enter adulthood with a passion for learning and deep understanding of who they are as individuals within a larger community.

For the sake of brevity, let’s focus on one aspect of this vision statement: “individuals within a larger community”. Where might this aspect of the vision create action in the school? We could see it in:

  • Student discipline procedures
  • Lunch schedules
  • Passing periods
  • Pep rallies and assemblies
  • Afternoon socials

Let’s target the school discipline procedures.

GHI High School might use restorative practices like those discussed in Cristobal Saldana’s blog post, Where Protocols and Restorative Discipline Intersect:

The key is that there has to be some action that repairs the relationship. It isn’t always easy, and it definitely isn’t something that happens quickly. But, slowly over time, meaningful relationships will emerge and discipline issues should lessen.

Key Takeaways

In studying thousands of school missions and vision statements, I’m learning it’s really about action. Here are a few key takeaways for crafting and acting on a vivid vision statement for your school:

  • Avoid jargon
  • Focus on the next 3-5 years
  • Define what will make your school unique
  • Craft an actionable statement
  • Align changes that will put the vision into action

Your Turn

What do you think makes a vivid vision actionable? Do you think vision statements are a waste of time? How can a vision thrust a school forward in its improvement efforts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share this post and tag me @mafost.

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