Shawn Creswell

Shawn Creswell is the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for Conroe Independent School District. With over 20 years in education, she has served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, and principal.

Turning a Vision into a Reality

Educators around the world are hopeful for a bright start to the next school year and a return to a new normal.  It’s for all of these reasons administrators work with great intention to set the stage for the coming year starting with the very first day back with the school staff.

For most educators the first day together as a staff is one they look forward to with the excitement of first-day jitters. It’s a day to reunite with teammates they may not have seen over the summer break, to welcome new staff members into the school family, and to connect on the shared work for the coming year. This is a very important day.

Remember the why

So, what should this day be all about? For me as a campus principal, I wanted to spend this day connecting the staff to our why. To reaffirm our reason we exist as educators. As Dr. Rick DuFour (2015) perfectly said, “The fundamental purpose of a school is learning, not teaching.” This quote is the ideal springboard for a start-of-the-year discussion: <em>What does this quote say to you as an educator?</em>

From there, the conversation is one which guides the staff to reflect on the vision and mission of the school: Does the entire staff know and understand the shared vision and mission? Are collective commitments in place by all staff members to do the work needed to turn the vision into reality? If asked, do the students, parents, and community know and support the vision and mission of the school?

For my campus and staff, this first day work led us to create our mission, vision, and motto that we continue to revisit yearly. The school vision is the statement of what the school community is aspiring to become: to be globally recognized as a professional learning community that provides excellence in academic, cultural and character education and prepares K-6 students to be positive leaders in a 21st century world. To reach this vision, the mission at our school, guaranteed exceptional learning and growth for all students, is the promise we make for every learner who attends the school. It is through our commitment to our mission and vision that we are able to align all of our decisions. 

All day, every day

But what happens after the first day? The work of the first day must live in every day and every decision throughout the school year. In order to turn the vision of a school into reality, all stakeholders must have a place in the work. It is critical to take the time to collect insight, opinions, and ideas from staff, students, parents, and the community.

The staff is an essential component of this work. Staff surveys, team conversations, and campus-wide learning around vision and mission work guides the staff into the important work of commitment to the goals of the organization. Staff members are able to rally around the goal and bring ideas to the table to help the school improve.

In addition, parents and community are able to support the work of the school when they are asked for input. To foster this collaborative work, parent surveys provide insight to clarify the work of developing a strong culture. 

Stronger together

Student voice is essential to the work as well. Student collaboration with the campus administration team allows opinions to be heard. We found suggestions from our students often offered creative and unique perspectives never considered by adults, yet were so simple to implement. On our campus, students from kindergarten through sixth grade were eager to share their thoughts to help make our vision a reality. 

By including the many stakeholders in the vision and mission work, we were able to create not only a stronger vision and mission, but one that was valued and ‘owned’ by every member of the staff, the students, the parents and our community. This work provided the lens through which all decision-making was focused providing clarity for the organization.

From this powerful work set out on the very first day with staff and engaging in the PLC process, the mission at the school went from a focus on what was provided, the school community provides exceptional academic and character education for all students, to a guarantee of growth for all students. Through this critical collaborative work with all stakeholders, the vision and mission are not tasks to check off the administrator’s to-do list. They have now become the heart of the organization and the core belief of how our school makes decisions and moves forward in the work of learning, growing, and excelling.

DuFour, R. (2015). In praise of American educators. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.


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