Do you ever notice that you go wherever you look? If you’re looking down, inevitably you trip and fall at some point. If you’re looking straight ahead, that’s exactly where you’ll end up. My students prove this to me all the time – we were just going over the choreography for their winter concert and the kids that were looking at their feet ended up on the floor of the stage (much to their 5th grade embarrassment). The same is true when it comes to a vision for a school, business or even personal household. If you’re constantly looking at the muck you’re in, that’s exactly where you’ll land. But if we just take a moment to look up and see where we could be, we’d be so far ahead in our process of getting there! What an exciting thought! How would you actually like to be where you dream? That’s what a vision is all about.
What is a Vision?
A vision is simply a long term dream that you’re willing to put down into a plan of action. So if you dream about what your life would be like if you were making an extra $10K a year, then state the dream on paper and write down a plan of steps that will help you accomplish that goal in 3-5 years. By doing this, I guarantee that you’ll be where you dream – it happens every time. I remember when I was single and my dream was to find someone I loved and cared about, marry them and start a family. But it never seemed to pan out. Then, I sat down one summer afternoon and wrote my dream down onto a piece of paper. I laid out some steps for putting myself out into the dating scene, what qualities I was looking for and what my dealbreakers were. Then I folded that paper, put it in a desk drawer and allowed “magic” to happen. I met my husband that fall and within 2 years, we had our daughter Emma. By simply taking your dream, writing it down and putting a plan in place, the dream becomes a vision that has a purpose and will then take you where you want to go. So do it, already! What are you waiting for? Go….right now.
Envisioning a new reality
Schools need to use this philosophy in order to improve. Studies have shown that the most successful schools and districts take the time to dream a vision for where they want to be in 5 years and involve all their stakeholders. Teacher, administrators, students, parents and community members – everyone! They get into a room and dream for a while of what their utopia of education would be like. Then, you take that dream, write it down and create the action plan. From there, since all the stakeholders have a piece of their dream wrapped into that vision, everyone then wants to be accountable to the plan. So you come up with ways to measure your progress along the way to make sure you don’t stray too far from that dream. And amazingly, those schools all look back after 5 years and find that they’ve surpassed their original dream and now have room to grow and envision a better place than they ever could have thought of before they started the process.
Weight Watchers Syndrome
So if the research is out there that this works, why don’t we do it more in our schools, businesses and in our lives? I call it the Weight Watchers syndrome. Come January 1, most people at some point have a “dream” of being a different size. So they commit to their vision of a thinner, healthier version of themselves and sign up for a diet meeting or a new video series or something to head toward that vision. Good for you! But by January 31, those videos are already collecting dust and the meetings haven’t seen you in two weeks. It’s hard to follow through and it takes up so much gosh darn time. I just can’t seem to motivate myself to get out of bed at 5AM to exercise. I know it’s good for me, I know it makes me feel better and I KNOW it will turn my vision into my reality, but I just don’t have time or energy to follow through. Schools and businesses have the same struggle. They ALL know that this vision process will work – and don’t fool yourself into thinking that your school just hasn’t discovered this yet. They have. They just are in the middle of their “weight watcher effect” and have left their vision process to collect some dust.
We must recommit to carving out the time for this process. It is imperative that schools, businesses and even you and I take the time to dream. It seems frivolous, doesn’t it? In the midst of all the other responsibilities we have and schedules and jobs and LIFE, how are we supposed to waste our time on dreaming? But it all comes back to that beginning paragraph – you end up where you look. If you’re not taking the time to dream and look ahead of where you are, you’ll never get very far. If you’re constantly looking at your schedules and your responsibilities, you’ll end up with more things eating up your schedule and signing on for more responsibilities. Commit to the change! Commit to the diet! We CAN make a change – even if it seems insurmountable. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Take that to heart – baby step, by baby step our visions become the reality. So follow the steps – enfold your stakeholders together, take time to dream, WRITE IT DOWN, put some measurable steps into place, analyze your progress periodically and the celebrate when you reach your goals. Vision truly is the way of and TO the future.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.