Friday, May 31, 2013

Clarifying Vision

Three years ago I had my first staff meeting.  I remember it very well.  As I reflect, I did a terrible job.  I had a Power Point and I went through approximately thirty different topics.  I believe my first staff meeting failed for a few reasons:  1) I was not conveying confidence 2) I didn't focus on the importance of relationships  3) I didn't share a vision

I share this reflection for a reason.  I know I have a long way to go.  I believe all people can grow and improve.  It's okay to fail, but we must learn from our failures.

The big issue in this is Sharing a Vision.  As a 5th grade teacher I had a vision for my students and classroom.  My vision wasn't a nice, clean statement it was more like bullet points.  I conveyed my vision to parents in my newsletters and in my interactions with students and parents.  I strongly believe all students and parents clearly understood my values and vision.

As I became Principal I made a glaring error.  I didn't communicate my vision.  I feel extremely fortunate that the staff was able to continue moving forward even though I was experiencing growing pains.  As I reflect on my first year I'm able to say that I believe everything happens for a reason.  Our building experienced many challenges during my first year, I truly feel that you learn more about people during challenging times than you do during good times.  My number one goal was to build trust and I believe I made positive strides by the end of my first year.

So why is it important to communicate your vision?  Whether you are a teacher, a principal or a superintendent you are bound to encounter challenging situations.  When you have these challenges occur, it is essential to have a clear vision.  Having a clear vision will allow you to lean on this and not make things personal.  So often when challenges happen people want to make things personal.  Experience tells me that a clear vision informs all stakeholders of the goal.  It makes it about the vision. It's about a shared purpose.

I sat back the other day and I was reading an article.  The article discussed the need for a shared vision. I put the magazine down and sat back...hmmm, could I verbalize my vision?  Is my vision a shared vision?  I became critical of myself, I questioned my leadership ability.  So in the heat of the moment I got up and went to the first teacher I could find.  I walked into the room and said, "I need your help, you cannot get this wrong, but I do need honest feedback."  I then proceeded to ask what she believed my vision/our vision was for Warner Elementary.  The response was well thought out and honest.  I was pleased with what was shared.  I listened and then reflected, maybe I did share my vision more than I thought.  The next question; Was my vision a shared vision?   

I sent out a survey monkey, I gathered feedback on the vision.  I then met with teachers to discuss the shared vision.  I admit, this was long overdue.  Part of me kicked myself for not doing this sooner.  I then counseled our Technology Specialist Mike MacGuinness.  Mike and I discussed vision and the need for a visual.  I shared a lot of ideas and ultimately he created this:

I share this with you in the attempt to get feedback, but I also do this to educate.  If someone reads this and it helps them in their journey then I'm glad.  I'm not perfect, I will continue to learn and grow, if I can help others along the way then I will feel good about my hiccups.  

Please feel free to comment about my process, my journey and the vision.  I hope staff embraces the vision and that we all share in a common goal.  We are student centered and we love of our students!

Warner Elementary is caring & compassionate.  Warner Elementary engages all students.  Warner Elementary is student centered.  We are all Lifelong Learners!

Our Vision Statement: 

Warner Elementary is a student centered school that engages all students.  Our goal is to foster caring and compassionate students that are prepared to be lifelong learners.

What would you change?  Can you verbalize your vision?  Is it okay for teachers to have classroom visions?  Is Vision and Mission different?  

Next Week At a Glance:

Monday, June 3rd:  McKenzie is the Honorary Principal of the Day!
Monday, June 3rd:  Panther Pride Lunch
Monday, June 3rd:  Tornado Drill in the AM
Tuesday, June 4th:  3rd grade trip to Mackinac
Tuesday, June 4th:  2nd grade to Impression 5
Tuesday, June 4th:  4th and 5th grade Field Day
Wednesday, June 5th:  3rd grade in Mackinac (possible Field Day make-up if necessary)
Thursday, June 6th:  3pm Assembly in gym CP Federal Credit Union
Thursday, June 6th:  Volunteer Lunch
Friday, June 7th:  5th grade Graduation practice
Friday, June 7th:  5th grade picnic at Harmony Park
Friday, June 7th:  KDG Music Program


Great iPad APPS for Summer Learning

Illustrate Your Own Story

Articles Worth Reading:

Unpopular Thoughts  by @stumpteacher

Is That Behavior Bullying?  by Marcia McEvoy

New Report Card Frustrates Parents  shared by @twhitford

Leaders Sit On The Front Porch  by @casas_jimmy

Grit is more important than IQ  shared by @patrickmlarkin

Capstone Experience  by @NMHS_Principal

21 Things that will be Obsolete by 2020  shared by @dreambition

Quantity Time or Quality Time   shared by @8Amber8

Coping Strategies  by @cybraryman1

4 Short Stories that Will Change the Way You Think  by @marcandangel

Age of the Learner  by @DCulberhouse

The Things You'll Do For a Porta Potty  by @ShutUpRun

Common Core & High Stakes Hiatus  shared by @Tchr_RachelM

That Wonderful Uncomfortable Feeling by Frank & Brian

Star BasketBall Player Thanks Community  shared by @educationweek

Summer Learning, Happens So Fast  shared by @MrPowersCMS

Videos Worth Watching:

Angel in the Outfield (13 min)

10 Expectations:  MUST WATCH! (3 min)

@gcouros Relationships Make All The Difference! (9 min)


  1. Thank you for the exhortation to read this post. I appreciate that you are modelling your practice as a constant learner and that it extends across your sphere of influence. We cannot forget that we are all journeying at one point or another along the continuum as curators and conduits of education.

    ps the ancillary links will be gladly shared with my local PLN in the near future. Will

  2. Ben,
    Thank you so much for sharing this post- I found myself nodding my head the whole time! It's really interesting because I have pondering this whole idea of a shared vision and how that might manifest itself in our school mission statement. I know what I envision as the Lead Learner of our school but I don't know how that translates to the staff and community at large. A shared vision that is "living" and evolving is critical! Thanks for helping me push my thinking! Warner Elementary is lucky to have such a passionate, transparent and thoughtful leader!

  3. Like the graphics and the vision-
    I am sure we can all remember OUR first years..... The thing that makes us great is not that we are perfect (we are not!); it is that we can reflect and LEARN. That is what a life long learner does.