What’s your Vision?

I find that the effectiveness of a department directly corresponds to the buy-in of its staff. You must have a strong vision, and you must ensure your staff is on board, in order for anything to happen well.

The question is, what happens when a department’s vision isn’t obvious, coherent, is actively unliked or maybe just rubbish? 

Should teachers get in line and do what they’re told regardless, or should they question and attempt to come to some agreement? Is there room for negotiation when the leader goes one way and the people go another? Or is a mass exodus or a revolution the only ways forward?

And how much should a leader listen to her staff? How much should a leader compromise, and when? 

This depends on the leader, and on the quality of the vision. But who’s to say what is quality?

Sometimes the word from on high is final.

When Lot was led out of Soddom and Gamorah in Canaan, God told them not to look back. Lot’s wife looked back (was she missing home already, or maybe worried for the friends she left behind?) and God turned her into a pillar of salt. 

God’s word was final. No debate. I’ll never know why she suffered such a fate for questioning a seemingly random rule. 

Rather harsh. Does this have any merit for today’s teachers? Must we fall in line or find a new job, or is there room for questioning the rules of the higher ups?

Some teachers just “keep their heads down” and do their own thing, which might work for them and indeed might get their students better results but doesn’t help the department much. 

And whose fault is it, the teachers who “do their own thing” or the leader who isn’t leading well? Or is it a culmination of a lot of bad leadership over the years that makes teachers cynical?

Ok, so I’m transferring for the sake of analogy. Take with a grain–or a pillar–of salt.

America had slaves for a long time, and nobody seemed to have the vision to abolish. Or maybe leaders before Lincoln weren’t visionary enough, and America paid the price by imploding. Therefore, did America go to Civil War because Lincoln was a good president, or a bad one? Or perhaps it was the president before, who allowed slavery to continue in the south. 

Upon closer inspection, it seems that four presidents before Lincoln considered themselves to be “anti-slavery,” but each one angered abolitionists by catering to slave-owning states because their vision was changeable, or because their vision actually had nothing to do with abolishing slavery but was instead about land and power. As such, Lincoln had a much bigger job putting his foot down after so many other presidents played the game and let slavery slide for the “benefit” of enlarging the union. As leaders, their visions decided their fate and the problems of their successors. Lincoln’s four predecessors are largely unremembered, but Lincoln had to pay a high price for his leadership, and so did our country. 

How many good leaders are there working in education today? Is it the fate of good leaders to fix the problems created and intensified by leaders before them and pay the sacrificial price? 

The struggle for a coherent, cohesive vision is real, and, if the range of experiences and discussions I’ve had over my years teaching is at all representative, there’s a vision vacuum in many a school; instead, fads, incentives, pressure, threats and data are forced together to suck the life out of what could be so much better. 


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