Sunday, January 19, 2014

Transforming our Dream into a Vision

One of the most memorable speeches in American history is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech.  As he spoke to hundreds of thousands in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, he had a vivid vision of a day where children of all races would come together at the table of brotherhood.  He saw a day where people would be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.  For those of us who never grew up in a time where Jim Crow ruled the day, it is indescribable to witness 50 years later the passion and commitment that Dr. King and millions of others had to make our country a better place for all people.

The interesting thing about Dr. King’s speech is that it actually wasn’t a dream or even a wish.  It was a vision.  It was a powerful belief that went far beyond hope.  He anticipated a new day where the ways of the present would be replaced by a much better future.  But here is where the dream turned into a vision.  Dr. King didn’t stop with his words.  He worked tirelessly and fearlessly to make the vision of the civil rights movement a reality.  People rallied.  People suffered and many died, but the vision never ceased.  With each day, the vision inched closer to becoming more real than it was the previous day. 

So in thinking about the definition of school vision, what are questions that schools should ask to define their vision?  School visions describe what the school hopes to become as a result of its daily commitment to the mission.  If the school truly believes in its mission of educating 100% of the students that arrive on its doorstep, what would the school be like when it realizes that mission of truly educating every child?  This vision represents a roadmap for decisions that must be made to construct the campus culture that reflects its constant movement toward the school that it desires to be.

When DuFour et al described school visions in “Learning by Doing, 2nd Edition” (2010), they made the following descriptions.  “Vision statements are credible and focus on the essential outcomes for every kid.  Vision statements are used as a blueprint for improvement and they are widely shared through collaboration.  Vision statements are not opinions or wish lists.  They are not something to be ignored or worse dictated or developed by few”. Mattos, Buffum and Weber (2012) described a vision as collective responsibility or “a shared belief that the primary responsibility of each member of the organization is to ensure high levels of learning for every child”.

If we truly believe that all kids can learn, we must stop dreaming about it.  We must define what our school will look like when every kid learns.  From there, we must use that vision to make the rough places plain, and the crooked paths straight.  That means we must stop accepting excuses for why things can't change.  We must confront practices that do not align with that vision, and compel our colleagues to commit to believing in the potential of 100% of the kids that walk through the door.  By forcing our actions to visualize a better future, we will no longer be touting our dream with a banner on the wall, but planting that dream in the hearts and minds of every student in the building. 

So what will you do to make your dream a vision?

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