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Living up to your vision statement. The Universal Panacea.


These ring any bells?

“a place of excellence where children can achieve full potential in their academic, creative, personal, physical, moral and spiritual development”

“We will equip children for the demands and opportunities of the twenty-first century by offering a differentiated, effective and rigorous curriculum as an entitlement to all.”

“A professional and highly motivated staff, in partnership with parents, will encourage each child to achieve his full potential.”

“A disciplined and caring environment, based on mutual respect, each boy will be valued as an individual in his own right and his moral and spiritual development encouraged.”

We all have them. The good old vision statement. So much promise. So much positivity. So much potential to move a school forward. A vision which has at some point on an inset day a year or two ago, had been ‘written’ by the whole staff, maybe the students had their say too.

On the day, we all feel pretty good to have some say in the vision of our school. But it doesn’t take long for that vision to become a bit clouded. Usually after 9C Thursday period 5, or after a stressful break duty. Before you know it, the vision is long forgotten and when we revisit it in a year or twos time, well, it’s time to write it again isn’t it?

So my question is; do YOU know what your schools vision statement is? No, I don’t mean your one sentence strap line, I mean the meaty bit which we all invested so much thought and energy on that inset day back in September? No? Me neither.

So if the teachers who day in, day out work in that school can’t remember, let alone buy into our shared vision, what is the point?

I am a believer in having a shared vision. As a teacher, I feel like someone with vision. I think you have to. You have to see how you can get the very best out of every child. You have to think about how you will guide them to being the best they can be that year. You have beliefs. You have a holistic view on the purpose of school. Don’t you? Good.

A school can be a very different experience for every child. It can be a very different experience for every teacher. The Vision statement should help develop a shared sense of purpose and belief in what our schools should be. I think you could look at any vision statement every written; they pretty much all hold aims and values which we wouldn’t sniff at. Ok maybe the ‘21st century learner’ would get a few of us thinking fingernails on the chalkboard, but they are often full of stuff which we would find it difficult to disagree with.

But what should we do with these statements which hold such promise? Well let’s start by adopting them wholeheartedly shall we? If we really, really agree with them? A vision held by all of us, including parents and children will fundamentally influence the direction of the school. But how do we do this? How do we all live up to the vision?

Firstly, don’t put anything in there, you cannot live up to! ‘Where every child will reach their potential’ is a classic non-starter. The last thing I want the students I teach is to reach their potential by the time they are 16!

Don’t get me wrong. I am the most idealistic teacher I know. Well, knew before I joined the twittersphere and realised there’s a whole heap of outrageously optimistic teachers out there. But I want my vision statement to be realistic, to be achievable, to be held dear to all who work and learn at my school. And every day, I want that vision to be seen and experienced by the students and staff at my school.

It is up to all of us to ensure this vision is met. We all have to do our bit. So my Panacea is to live up to our vision statements. And let’s make those statements incredibly idealistic, but let’s make sure we really do live by them. And where we fall short, let’s ensure the right support is there to fix it. A vision statement, if it is to have any worth, should be something we are challenged to live up to every single day. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So.. For what it’s worth,  here’s my idealistic, achievable mission statement for me. Let me know what you think.

  • I want every student I teach to be known by me; what makes them tick, what I can do to motivate, support and encourage them to be the very best they can be today and tomorrow.
  • I want every student I teach to feel incredibly inspired and challenged by what they are learning in my classroom.
  • I want every student I teach to see effort as the path to mastery. Nothing will be gained without a lot of hard work.
  • I want every student I teach to understand what beautiful work looks like and what they need to give to produce it.
  • I want every student I teach to talk passionately about their learning to their friends and parents.
  •  I want every child I teach to know what they are doing is really valuable and important.
  • I want every child I teach to learn to be resilient enough to keep going when things get tough.
  • I want every student I teach to leave my classroom wanting more.
  • I want every student I teach to know they can become truly brilliant.

Idealistic? Yup. Achieveable? I bloody hope so.

So, a vision statement should hold us to account. It should make us question our teaching, our relationships in the classroom. It should make us question our values and it should allow our students, our parents and our community to be inspired and excited by the purpose of our institution. And maybe, just maybe, we should ALL know what it is!

You can read more Panacea posts here





Author: Pete Jones

I am primarily an Art teacher, but over the past 5 years have been co-developing an experienced-based learning programme in the school I work in called Pebble, (short for Project Based Learning). I read extensively on learning and education, and I intend to use this blog to record what is going on in my head as well as in the classroom. Hopefully I will be able to share resources and ideas with like-minded thinkers in the future. The Pebble course runs through the whole of Year 8 for 5 periods a week. I am desperate for our world wide education system to catch up with the way we live our lives. Transformation of what we learn in schools and how we learn in schools is desperately overdue. Pebble is a skills centered curriculum with the focus very much on what students need to be successful learners, giving them valuable, deep learning experiences to boot.


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