“A key leadership role for school principals is shaping a school vision of academic success for all students, based on high standards,” according to the Wallace Foundation report, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. Citing a Vanderbilt University study, the report identifies the importance of principals spelling out high standards and rigorous learning goals as the key to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and less advantaged students.
Whether I’m working with an administrator planning with an entire staff or an instructional coach guiding a PLC or individual teacher, I suggest identifying the gap that exists between a vision of success and current student achievement outcomes. This gap provides the motivation, energy, creativity and risk taking for improvement or change.
In a blog, To Reach Your Goals, Make a Mental Movie, Srini Pilla, M.D., CEO of NeuroBusiness, and author of Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, highlights the value of imaging your vision:
There is now incontrovertible evidence that imagining a movement will stimulate the movement areas in the brain. This technique has been used when helping people with stroke to begin moving and to help elite athletes optimize their pre-competition training. This evidence suggests that to reach your goals first write them down, and then determine different possible ways of achieving them. Then, close your eyes and imagine yourself following those paths. Imagination “warms up” the action brain and “jump starts” your brain. This technique can be especially helpful if you are procrastinating or stuck.
... one especially helpful type of imagery that you can use is called motivational-general mastery (M-GM), which involves keeping an eye on your goal, while imagining coming from behind. M-GM stands in contrast to the static imagery of imagining having your goal in hand, as in holding up a trophy. Actually coming from behind to reach your goals appears to be a more powerful way to increase your confidence. To do this, clearly define your benchmarks, and then denote where you are and when and how you anticipate reaching and even exceeding them.
As I read about M-GM I thought it fit perfectly for educators. Identifying current student outcomes and envisioning the success we want our students to gain. Pillay continues:
Your brain has the ability to map out your course to your goal once you clearly communicate to yourself what this goal is. In addition, imagining your journey also helps to keep your brain on track as it will constantly refer to this image and update your journey with greater ease than if you did not provide this information to it.
Brain science teaches us that a picture is worth a 1000 words because it serves as an attentional guide, motivator and map to the brain to help you navigate your way to come from behind to reach or exceed your goals.
As school instructional leaders work to build the “pictures of success” for staff, teachers will want to engage their students in imaging their individual learning successes as they uncover multiple ways for the learning to be accomplished.