Monday, March 20, 2006

Which came first - the chicken or the egg?

  Posted by Picasa Does a school develop its vision first then set about putting it into practice, or does it decide that, since current reality is not working, to work towards something better and in the process develop a new vision? And does it really matter?

The most important thing is for a school to have a shared sense of direction that acts like a 'moral compass' helping all decide what are the ‘best’ actions to take. There will be no best actions but some are better than others.

A widespread realization is that a school should have a compelling vision of what it could become. But visions, without the 'buy in' of all staff members (or a critical mass), have no real power to change anything and are just a form of 'window dressing'. 'A vision without action is merely a dream.'

To develop a compelling vision that all 'buy into' requires a process where the ‘voice’ and concerns of all involved are recognised and valued. Every teacher, no matter how cynical, has an image of an ideal school somewhere in their mind and taking time to uncover this is well worthwhile. Even when a vision is 'drafted' out the hardest bit is actually defining what this new vision means in action. Everyone needs to be involved in thinking through what changes need to be made; most of all each individuals previously unexamined teaching habits! This requires courage and leadership by all because changing 'mindsets' is not easy. ‘A good past’, someone said, ‘is dangerous it makes us content with the present and so unprepared for the future.’

This is no easy process but done well it will result in a vision community owned by all.

In contrast schools that recognize that their school is failing their students, or who simply 'feel' their must be a better way, and then who set about exploring new ideas about how to teach and learn, can develop the ‘knowledge in action’ to develop a vision that, when realized, all will feel part of.

This idea of ‘growing a vision’, built out of the ideals of all involved, may be the most powerful process of all and ends up with a collective sense of direction owned by all.

One thing is for sure, there is no easy way to develop a powerful compelling vision. No way can you copy one, unless you do the hard work needed to ‘own it’.

Whatever way a school goes about developing a vision the process of shared dialogue is vital. The final proof will be seen in the actions and behaviors of all involved not in the paper work proudly displayed in the foyer. A vision lead school, no matter how the process begins, is an exciting diverse place to teach and learn in – a place of continual exploration and adventure; a true learning community full of good ideas, energy and hope.

'A vision with actions can change the world.'

As far as the 'chicken and egg' argument goes – my sense is that both are true. Teachers given the right conditions will always thrive and be creative.

Schools that fail are those with no shared vision.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

Hi Bruce
You're doing it again - putting up the picture before the post. I'm not going to comment too soon and put my foot in it again - and i'm not going to comment only once :-)

Bruce said...

Greetings Rachel

I always put up the picture first - it gives me time to sort out what I am going to say. Although I guess it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation - which comes first the thought or the picure?

Anonymous said...

All schools these days have visions and missions but they are delusions than transformative visions.

Anonymous said...

Creating vision led schools requires democracy - and one things schools are not is democratic.

Bruce said...

A vision led school is harder to develop but, when in place and 'owned' by all, is a lot simpler than a school run by clearfolders and trying to guess what others want!

'Vision led schools' need leaders with courage and an ability to 'sense' the requirements of the future; the others just need efficient managers.

Is a choice of 'doing the right thing' or 'doing things right'. Unfortunately we have been 'over managed and underled' the past decades.