Again as reminder, Senge’s Five Disciplines are not easily teased apart. However their sum is crystal clear. That is, twining these disciplines together makes a fabric not easily worn through. In other words, it lasts.

So what do we do to keep instructional excellence thriving through the multi-prism lenses of the Five Disciplines?

Shared Vision: Often when an accrediting agency visits a school an Examiner will make a point of asking children, staff, teachers and administrators what the mission of the building is. It’s certainly telling if no one can state and explain the the mission and vision. All too often a vision and/or a mission statement hangs in a prominent place in the school lobby or is perhaps also on a school’s letterhead and is ignored or forgotten anyway.

Whose fault would this be? The administrators? The staff? Other stakeholders?

While I suppose the easy answer is “Everybody”, the better answer is “The administrators”. I say this because they have been entrusted with continuity of leadership and have the moral suasive power, or should anyway, to champion, advocate for, fight for if necessary, for the values and intentions of the entire school organization.

When or if, the leader lets this lapse, she has truly abdicated her validity as leader except in name only.

I have an anecdote about this: As an elementary principal of an excellent building, I had worked with a terrific faculty (I inherited) and the community to not only create an ambitious mission but to create sub-systems and activities to align with it. One sub-system activity was to create a schedule where there was uninterrupted block time devoted solely to reading and language arts. This was inviolable and a focus point of all instructional planning.

After 9 years, I was “promoted” to Central Office just before the opening of the next school year. The new principal, in her zeal re-did the schedule I had developed. One consequence was to un-do the reading block. The principal, a fine educator, and who sustained the quality of the school well after I left, UN-did the schedule to meet what she construed as other priorities.

She was met with a near revolt by her faculty at the very first meeting. They were so committed to the instructional value of the original schedule, and to the overall mission and activities of the building that they gave her a very bad time for some time.

Think about the vision and mission statements in your own schools. Do your stakeholders know it? Does the planning and organization of the building or district functions support or dilute it?

If so, why?

If not, why? And how do you sustain emotional, intellectual, and yes spiritual commitment to it?

Next post will be about developing and sustaining your shared vision.

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