Articulating Vision, Mission, and Values

These statements can be powerful communicators of your commitment to student-centered learning. Use the tips and samples here to craft or rework your own.

Ideally, an organization’s Vision, Mission and Values are crafted as part of an organization-wide strategic plan. Sometimes, people skip this step because they consider it “fluff” work, or a drag on their time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Crafting these statements is fundamental to realizing a collective vision.  And the process of crafting them is even more important than the language that eventually lands on the page.

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So if your strategic plan is missing these elements, it’s time to bring together a wide variety of school and community stakeholders to build a common understanding about the direction of the organization, its highest aspirations, and how it wants to be viewed by the community. Even if you already have these statements in place, you may want to review them to gauge how well they communicate your commitment to student-centered learning. Do not rush this process. It’s better to take the time to do it well and with everyone you need at the table.

Vision

A vision expresses your organization’s aspirations for the future. Where do you want it to be in five or ten years? A vision is a concise statement and should be easy to remember. The classic example is, “A man on the moon in ten years,” spoken by President John F. Kennedy. His vision was, indeed, realized.

A great way to get the ball rolling on crafting a vision is to read the vision statements of similar organizations. Then, you can have a conversation about what you like and dislike about them, and begin sharing ideas on chart paper. When you have a version in hand (or a few versions), consider the following:

  • Is it memorable?
  • Is it the right length?
  • Is it inspirational without being too pie-in-the-sky?
  • Will people easily understand it?
  • Is it expressing the kind of organization we hope to be?

If you already have a vision statement, you may also want to look at your current version to compare the difference between the old and the new.

More Sample Vision Statements

Boston Day and Evening Academy: Boston Day and Evening Academy will continue to be an innovative leader in student-centered education for off-track learners.

Maine Youth Action Network: MYAN’s vision is that youth feel valued, empowered, and prepared to engage in and improve their communities.

Mission

A mission statement describes the overall purpose of your organization. A clear mission is a way of putting a stake in the ground. It keeps people focused and on task, and helps guide everyday decision-making. A dynamic vision statement is also a great motivational tool for building public understanding and engagement. It will also motivate students, parents, staff, and the school board. You may want to start by reading mission statements from similar organizations.

To develop a great mission statement, collect input from many stakeholders. Remember that everyone in the community is a stakeholder in the schools, even if they don’t have children attending the schools. Having a broad base of support for your mission will help you gain credibility, as folks become more invested in the schools as a result of their participation.

Ask Yourselves:

  • What do we hope to accomplish as an organization?
  • What is the essential work to be done here?
  • How is our organization different from all other organizations, and how might we capture that in our mission?

Brainstorm as many ideas as you can, holding back judgment initially. You can winnow down the list later once you know what is resonating most deeply with folks. You may want to take a look at other organization’s mission statements to stimulate your thinking.

More Sample Mission Statements

Santa Fe Indian School: The Santa Fe Indian School provides a challenging, stimulating, and nurturing learning environment that shares responsibility with community, parents, and students to develop the students’ potential to meet obligations to themselves and their communities.

Youth On Board: Youth on Board helps young people and adults think differently about each other so that they can work together to change society.

Creating a Set of Values

If your vision is your aspiration for how your school or district will look in 5-10 years, and your mission is what you come to work every day to accomplish, your values express HOW you do your work. They are the ethical standards by which you measure yourself, and invite others to measure you.

Oftentimes, organizations skip this vital step. “We already know our values,” they say, “We don’t need to write them down.” But when issues arise, they see that their values may clash–for example, when weighing budget priorities. Creating a space for clearly articulating a set of shared values will ground all stakeholders in the work that needs to be accomplished. Values are not impossible dreams; rather, they are the foundation for all of the discussions you will have in your school and community. They will enable everyone to understand and articulate the foundational beliefs that guide your work now and in the future.

To arrive at a Set of Values, ask yourself some questions:

  1. What standards do we want everyone to follow when they make decisions?
  2. What behaviors do we want stakeholders to model?
  3. What are you grateful for about your district or school?
  4. How do we approach solving the most difficult problems?
  5. What do we want the community to understand about our organization from watching our behavior?
  6. What kinds of activities in our district exemplify what we value most?
  7. What do we want teachers and staff to say about how they were treated by us?
  8. What do we want those served by our organization to say about their experience with us?
  9. What about parents – especially those who may feel less comfortable in our schools?
  10. What is our desired reputation in the community?

Your Set of Values will not change much over time. It is a tool that can bring a sense of continuity to your district, school, and community. It can also help recruit employees whose values are a good match for the organization.

One of the most effective ways to begin shaping your Set of Values is to look at examples from similar organizations with similar missions.

More Sample Values Statements

City Year Values:  #makebetterhappen

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Up For Learning Guiding Values and Principles

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A final word:  Don’t keep your vision, mission, and values statements filed away in a cabinet or folder. Design them, laminate them, and post them everywhere. Display them on the homepage of your website. Look at them on a regular basis, especially when you feel that your organization is drifting a bit or has a difficult set of priorities to weigh.

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