Geri Parscale

Geri Parscale spent 28 years in education and has worked as a classroom teacher, principal, professional development director, and finally deputy superintendent of Fort Leavenworth Schools, USD 207. Her mode of operation was always the same: learning for all kids.

The Importance of a Clear Mission and Vision

A few weeks back, I was reading a CNN article on my computer titled “The Rise and Fall of Sarah Palin,” and while I did not give the article too much thought, I did catch one phrase that made me stop and think:

“It wasn’t clear what Palin stood for.”

That hits it on the head, doesn’t it? If we do not know where we are going, how do we know if we get there?

Therein lies the importance of having a clear mission and vision for a school. Why do we have a school? What is our purpose? What are we supposed to be doing? What collective commitments have we made? Is it clear what we stand for? For us to be a PLC with a culture that is clearly about student learning first, last, and always, we must be clear about our purpose.

Yearly, our school district looks at its mission, vision, values, and goals. Without exception, we have discussions surrounding our purpose. We examine our mission. Those conversations help us to fine-tune our focus and provide all the clarity we need to ensure priorities are still in line with student learning. If we fail to do this, we have no road map for what we want to do or where we wish to go.

As we review our vision, we have an opportunity to use it to give us direction with our mission. If we are here to ensure that all students learn at high levels, how do we move forward? What is the focus of any professional in the building to meet the mission of our school? Inevitably, these reviews create further conversations about best practice in instruction and assessment. They help us to continue to better ourselves so that we provide the best to our students on a daily basis. The collective commitment that we have made to ourselves, to each other, and to students and families is that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the mission of Fort Leavenworth Schools, "To achieve the highest level of learning for all through the tenacious pursuit of excellence," is not just a phrase or a line; it is something that we live every day.


kelly myers

Completely agree! How can we expect our students to learn the standard and know they have learned it when they do not know it! I begin and end my lessons with my learning targets and I feel it gives students a sense of ownership over their own learning.

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Ekta Mehndroo

Hi Geri,
I really liked your article and completely agree with you that we get so involved in achieving our daily goals that we just tend to overlook our vision. Once we focus on our vision, our mission will be clearly laid out. It is very important for us as teachers to remember and keep reviewing our vision and mission statements. Asking ourselves why are we in teaching. As teachers if our goals are clear to us then and only we can achieve the goals set for students and work towards effective student learning.

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I completely agree with you. Our school has a mission statement. We were told to copy it and tape it outside our classroom. It would have been productive to take a more collaborative approach to creating a mission statement. If created collaboratively by all teachers then it would give teachers a clear purpose for where we are headed despite the hurdles encountered that make us question why we went into this profession in the first place. I have my own personal mission statement to remind me of my purpose.
During the transition into a new nationwide common core curriculum, the decline of our economy removed the support we needed to work through this new 21st century curriculum. We had to “figure it out” ourselves without the training and technology it demanded due to lack of funding. This challenge took a toll on many teachers who were lost in this sea of new curriculum language and use of technology. I finally came to a point when I realized my heart was not into what I was teaching. I made a decision to trust my expertise and teach this new curriculum in the way that would fit the needs of my students. I created my personal mission statement. Once that mission was clear, it carried me through the rest of the year and continues to do so.

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Dorothy Chambers

Geir you are on target, the success of all schools, teachers and students depends on set goals and missions. I am happy that your mission, vision, values, and goals as a team, so all members of staff can have a input, as the success in our school and the achievement of students being the best they can be, needs the collaboration and input of all teachers. Far too often administrators leave teacher (one of the most important stakeholder) out of the planning
Dr. Kay Fruizi posted an article using a five step model approach to establish a professional learning community. I am recommending that this model be followed as it is a sure formula for success. Therefore I am sending the link. on 05/22/2013 at 02:24 PM in Leadership Insights, School Improvement | Permalink
The first two steps allows for focus on learning from all aspect of the teachers who know the students, so they would best have the knowledge of what is needed for their improvement and development. Therefore no improvement plan can be of value without their input.
The third to fifth steps puts action in place for learning outcomes of the students being the most important factor of the school, with continuous reflection for effective evaluation and sustenance of high standards.
The importance of collaborations for teachers professional and student’s development cannot be overelaborated. Collaborations of teachers leads directly to a much better school environment, where each person feels like a partner and thus will totally apply themselves for the success of the students and the school. It is a well-known fact that that when people are a part of the decision making process they are far more committed to its success, and will hold themselves accountable for the results, thus failure is not an option.
This view is also the main thrust of Dufour (2004) who wrote, “To create a professional learning community, focus on learning, rather than teaching, working collaboratively and, hold yourself accountable for results”.

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I completely agree with you. Without knowing our goal or purpose, how are we going to achieve anything? It is vital to a school's success that the teachers and administrators work together in developing the school's mission so that they are all working toward the same goal. Along with that, they must also continue to collaborate on ways to meet their goal and assess along the way if what they are doing is working or not. Taking it one step further, teachers must set targets for their students and share these targets with them so that the students know what they are working towards. If the students have no idea what they are supposed to learn they will never know if they have mastered the goal for the day or how to ask for help.

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I really appreciated this blog for pointing out the importance of a clear mission and purpose for all schools. This year, my school spent quite a bit of time developing a three word motto: Inspired, Compassionate, Involved. I love our motto, but unfortunately, that was about as far as we got in developing a vision. Our motto hasn't really gone past being a nice set of three words to go on a bulletin board. I'm hoping to work with my principal and some other teachers at implementing that motto in other areas, and I think using some PLC time to think about how we display those attributes would be a great use of time. I also had the opportunity to develop a personal mission statement through my masters program, and it was a great chance for reflection and redefining my role as a teacher. Thanks for the great post!

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I work at school management company where the vision and any real communication is not clear. It is extremely frustrating to be a team player when your not sure the coach is on the right page. I end up implementing several of my ideas based on how I know what the boss would like it be or visualizes the program.

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In my school it seems as if the concepts of PLC, vision, and mission are just "Fluff". What can we do to stress the importance of these without stepping on the toes of the administration. Everyone needs to be able to see that if we are all on the same page and working towards a common goal, we can improve our teaching and the school.

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I love this post! At the beginning of the school year, as a school, we were forced to create a mission statement that help guide the instruction throughout the year. However, when I enrolled into my Master's program, the instructor wanted me to create a mission statement as well, specifically for my class. I can not express how much this has helped me on a day to day basis. When I'm frustrated from demands, it makes easier to look at the promises I gave each child. Great Idea!

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I totally understand where you are coming from. It seems like your meetings are similar to mine in which it is more about eluding administration and flying under the radar then actually getting something done. I wish that my group, like yours, could use the time more efficiently so we could accomplish a common goal.

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PLC? I always wondered what PLC stands for. I come from an engineering back ground. now I am a math teacher. I am enrolling to obtain my master degree in education. if it wasn't for that I wouldn't be here on this site. luckily I am. and through my class I found out about it. I have attended a lot of professional development classes. but those are only that. P.D. classes. yes I learned from them and I am gaining valuable experience. going through PLC website and reading few articles about it. I am realizing it's a completely different type of meeting. I can see the validity of such groups. I see the potential it can provide to our school. the collaborative efforts, the authentic ideas that teachers might share in those meetings are so valuable. they are the reason why these PLC meetings or groups are and should be formed. exchanging Ideas, monitoring progress of students with the teachers in those meetings such a great measuring stick to gage where we are and were we want to be. and your opening statement is exactly that. if we don't know where were we are going, how do we know we got there? thank you,

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Currently my school is in the beginning process of becoming a PLC. I have found that we spend much of our time discussing the school mission and vision. I do believe that these meetings should be more teacher driven, which would lead to higher student learning, and allow for positive and effective collaboration amongst the staff.

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As a second year teacher, transitioning into my career has been quite a ride! What has also been interesting is the PLC experience. I am thankful that my school does what it can to foster this type of environment. I found your post quite interesting because I can't actually recall the last time we discussed our school's mission. It's posted all over the school, however, I can't remember if we have re-evaluated our goals to accomplish our mission. This has definitely given me something to think about.


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I am the Technology Coordinator at a very small (>100 students) international school in South America. Reading these posts and other articles has really helped me to reflect on how much our school would benefit from PLC. At the moment, our In-Services are mandatory and do not necessarily address the challenges that the teachers face. Also, teachers are not afforded the opportunities to have meaningful collaboration through dialogue. What has been happening is that "cliques" would have their sessions where they collaborate but ideas are not shared widespread with other faculty members. I would definitely recommend, to the director, that we adopt a PLC where we can better serve the needs of our students.

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I do not have a lot of experience in the PLC practice. I know my school is working on implementing it. After reading your blogs, I realized some important key points that I will have to address to my colleagues to make it more functional and effective. For sure our school’s mission and vision will be our main focus to motivate us to keep going on the right direction.

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I have to agree. I have felt that our PLC meetings are either book talks or work on common assessments. Our missions and visions are rarely mentioned. At times I feel the meetings feel required and more of a check-in and check-out. It is too bad the PLCs are not being implemented well.

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I am a female High School Physical Education teacher. My PLC meeting consists of 4 male PE teachers, 3 male Health teachers and 1 other female teacher. Our PLC time becomes a time of talking about the latest scores of whatever sport is in season. Although I enjoy being out of the radar of the administration, I wish that our time were used a little better. As sports talk can actually be an important part of being a PE teacher, knowing all of the latest news about each sports team... we really need to be talking about teaching and effectiveness. Our group is supposed to be meeting 2x a week for 45 minutes, but we fell through the cracks and only meet on Monday mornings for about 30 minutes. It is a shame to miss time that can be beneficial. I am up for suggestions on how to fix this problem.

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I agree totally with Ria and Nicole. My school started PLCs this year and it has been implemented half-heartedly. We keep being told to work on "common assessments" and yet very few of us teachers have the same class. It feels like one more catch phrase our principal throws out there to seem like he knows what he's talking about. So while I whole-heartedly agree that PLCs are a great idea, we are unfortunately not implementing them effectively....

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I have the same question as Nicole. The PLC practices in my building are more like book talks or individual study. I also remember when we started them - the school's vision was not a consideration. Now that I think about it, our vision is rarely mentioned. What can we do to help bring about the importance of our vision to all stakeholders and move from wasted time to really productive PLCs?

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I am a rookie in the PLC world. This year, I began working in a district that places lots of value in PLC's. I was excited to have the opportunity to experience the power of PLC's in a school community at the beginning of the year. However, most of the time, I have been disappointed with the use of the precious time provided. At first, I did not know why our PLC was so meeting like. It has felt more like a scheduled time to meet about whatever seems to come up as oppose to feeling like the inspiring communities that promote growth and change. After reading this short posting, I had some clarity. Our problem is basic and simple: We are just like Sarah Palin. We have no idea where we are going so we cannot even begin to plan the next step, or determine if we have gotten there. My question is this, as the newbie to the PLC that ha existed for over two years, how do I suggest going back to the beginning by defining what we are doing, why, and where we want to go?

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