Building a Vision and Beliefs - Steve Barkley

Building a Vision and Beliefs

I was invited to spend an afternoon with an administrative team preparing to open a new school in the fall. They requested that I assist in developing their plan for how to work with the new staff to create a vision statement and a set of beliefs that would guide the staffs’ decision making and work.

Just recently I worked with a team of principals who had opened new schools four or five years ago. They shared how exciting and motivating that “new mission” was and realized they now needed to recreate it with current staff, many of who were not on board at the time of the opening.

I believe that the vision/mission need to be deconstructed and reconstructed (not necessarily changed) at the start of each school year and then components revisited as part of faculty meetings throughout the year.

Here is the process we created for the new school staff. Perhaps you can use elements in your plans for visiting your mission, vision, and beliefs.

Teachers will respond individually to these two questions:

What are the indicators that signal you that you are being successful as a teacher?

What indicators signal that we are being successful as a school?

Have teachers pair and share their thinking, creating two lists of indicators. Then have pairs combine in groups of four and join their list.

Now combine to create groups of 8 and merge their lists. These groups compare their work to this point with the district’s mission and vision and identify any missing elements they believe should be added to their lists.

Now two groups of 8 merge and the 16 staff agree on the common elements. Those lists are now presented to the entire staff and used by a small group to craft a draft vision statement that can be refined with input from staff at a later faculty meeting.

With a vision statement in place a backwards process can now be used for creating the schools beliefs:

In order to meet our vision, what will our students need to do?

Work as problem solvers …critical thinking, problem- solving and persevering…fail and start again

Practice social/collaborate skills to enhance their own learning and the learning of others.

Grapple with challenging work.

Experiment with independent learning tasks using technology.

What teacher practices are most likely to generate these student behaviors?

Present relevant, challenging problems for students to tackle

Provide coaching feedback to students for the development of academic and social skills

Provide an environment where learning from failure is celebrated.

How would teachers work with each other on teams and in professional learning communities to support the necessary teacher behaviors?

Be focused on continuous teacher learning to create student learning. What do our students need us to learn?

Invest in cross curricular and vertical planning to create appropriate learning task for students.

Take a “no blame,” solution –oriented approach to student learning difficulties.

Provide students feedback and feedforward

What leadership behaviors will support teacher and student learning?

Creating and protecting time for teacher collaboration

Celebrating teacher risk-taking for increased student learning

Modeling vulnerability and continuous learning

Providing teachers feedback and feedforward

By examining the responses to these questions regarding student, teacher, and leadership behaviors a common list of guiding beliefs should emerge. Examples from the above responses might be:


Risk-taking is necessary for learning.

Feedback is a critical element for the promotion of learning.

Learning is an active, collaborative process

Leaders are lead learners

In your leadership role, how will you be creating the refection process for examining visions and beliefs that should be directing and guiding your team’s day to day work as educators?

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2 Responses to “ Building a Vision and Beliefs ”

  1. Lynn Hadley Says:

    Successful businesses often do this type of thing. I think this model would work well for a school or district as well. If teachers take part in the process, they are more likely to “own” the vision and the dynamics.

  2. Steve Says:

    Lynn, owning the vision/mission/beliefs, is the reason I feel it needs deconstructing and reconstructing each year along with ongoing staff conversations.

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