Alchemy was the process studied during the Middle-Ages that combined chemistry, magic, and philosophy in an attempt to convert cheaper metals into gold or silver.
What does this have to do with school improvement?
Many schools have unsuccessfully attempted similar transformations on an educational level. Follow this Blog and find out how to improve schools, as I share 40 years worth of school leadership experience.
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Monday, June 11, 2012
In order for a vision to work it must be clear to everyone and applicable to all members of the school staff. Remember years ago when your old Uncle John insisted on showing a family movie that was blurry because he couldn’t focus it? It didn’t matter how interesting the subject was, the out of focus pictures were a problem. You can’t expect people to follow a vision that’s not clear. The people will experience the same feeling of nausea and headache that you felt from the fuzzy images on film.
Everyone must feel some sense of involvement, responsibility, and accountability. The school leader should communicate the vision in a reaffirming speech whenever appropriate at gatherings. The vision must be conveyed in a manner that each listener leaves the function with a clear understanding of the vision.
For purposes of illustration, think of a photograph and picture yourself giving the annual speech prior to the opening of the school year. Imagine that you took a picture of the vision and you cut it into pieces and distributed it so each person held a portion of the vision in their hand. If you fail to seize the day and triumph with an invigorating oration you end up with a group of people with such a small perspective on the vision that they could never understand the whole picture.
Now, if you’ve done your homework and prepared a speech using a recipe of ingredients as noted in Martin Luther King’s delivery, you’d have a product on the order of a hologram. A hologram is the three dimensional image created by a laser beam. If you could develop a hologram of the vision and then divide it into pieces each part contains the whole image intact rather than reflecting fragments of the original. Pamela Mang and Carol Sanford, authors of A Work in Progress at DuPont, indicate that no matter how many times you divide the hologram each part of the beam reveals the entire image. (Ray and Rinzler, 149) Communicate the vision like a hologram so each member of your audience departs that stump speech fully comprehending the vision and inspired to share it with others.
John P. Kotter, author of Leading Change, offers the following rule of thumb regarding the viability of a vision: “Whenever you cannot describe the vision driving a change initiative in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are in trouble.”(Kotter, 9)
What is the vision guiding the school where your children invest themselves in creating their future? Who develops the vision and the attendant elements of culture, measurement, direction, and purpose? (to identify just a few of the factors impacting a school). I sense that the vision is evaporating at the local level. Instead, state mandates and regulations serve to shape the form and scope of the school operation. The ability of a local community to grow the school as an extension of its beliefs and values is being hijacked by forces external to the community. The tightening constrictions imposed by state education departments in the form of accountability have bred standardization and uniformity of assessments and curriculum that dilute the opportunity for schools to distinguish themselves. Furthermore, those schools who at one time could exercise discretionary funds to foster program initiatives and extend learning opportunities beyond minimal experiences are now contending with fiscal shortfalls that have reduced course offerings and increased class sizes.