Creating Frameworks for Possibility
While the last chapters of this month’s reading were all valuable, the one that resonated with me was the eleventh practice. The school that I teach at was completely overhauled with an entirely new staff, students, and grade levels this past school year. This whole year has been a work in progress, as the staff was hired only 2 weeks before school started (and in fact is not entirely complete now, and I came at the end of October), the administration was only assigned then as well, and our contract language is changed entirely for this building in the district alone. Teachers had never worked together before, and none had worked in this neighborhood or had any connections to the families in our school.
I say this because while we have been hired as “the best lead teachers in the city”, we have been operating without a clear vision. We have been thrown together with the task of “turning this failing school around”. A gargantuan task with no support from central administration to do so. At our last staff meeting, we discussed the need for a vision statement. I was a bit dismayed when we all contributed ideas and ended up with a vision the length of an essay with points encompassing all things we want to accomplish: lifelong learners, safe environment, parental education, engaged students, fostering curiosity, attending to health needs, community support, giving opportunities, 21st century technology, ending the cycle of poverty… the list went on and on. I felt that we were missing the mark on our vision statement. Of course we want all of these things for our students, but our vision could encompass all of these ideals without being an essay. It was simply a list of all the things that overwhelm us everyday and frankly, it was depressing to me to read it all and see all we have to accomplish.
According to The Art of Possibility, a vision articulates a possibility. It fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind. It is free-standing ~ it points to neither a rosier future, nor to a past in need of improvement. It is a long line of possibility radiating outward. I think that our vision for my school started during that staff meeting by looking at all that is wrong with our students’ lives, and what we want to do to fix it. That may be the worst way we can look at our vision. Why not the same vision as HP – “Robinson Elementary School For the World”? Not “Robinson Elementary School where we hope to erase poverty, drugs, gangs, parents who don’t know how to help their kids, kids who have no love of learning, atrocious behavior problems, pathetic attendance, government dependent citizens, violence....” Instead of looking at what we want to get rid of, we should be looking at where we strive to be.
Do we approach our vision by looking in the rear view mirror and addressing things that need to be changed? Or do we look forward at where we want to be as a school community? I will be sharing this chapter at our next staff meeting when we meet again to hammer out our vision statement.
photo from geekphilosopher.com|