By Michelle Hull, CEI Intern
Over the past five months, educators have been called to radically reimagine the classroom experience. This challenge has posed myriad questions: Why are students not consistently showing up to class or turning on their video cameras? How can the end of the school year be appropriately celebrated? And, above all else, how can educators emerge from this crisis better equipped to serve students’ holistic and individual needs? Dr. Christine Mason, the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Educational Improvement, and her co-authors for the book Visioning Onward: A Guide for All Schools (2020a)—Paul Liabenow and Dr. Melissa Patschke are helping educators answer that question through a strategic visioning process.
What is Visioning?
Visioning is defined by “brainstorming with key stakeholders, gaining consensus, letting ideas incubate, and then revisiting” (Mason, Liabenow, & Patschke, 2020b). We know educators are exhausted; CEI’s 8-step iterative and collaborative visioning process is designed to save administrators, staff, and teachers time and energy. By creating a strategic plan before the school year begins, school systems can ensure that the Compassionate School Mental Health Model is actualized.
These steps will prepare educators for the complexities of online learning long before their first class. This groundwork will guarantee that school systems are able to take advantage of the opportunities for transformation that COVID-19 has presented.
Understanding the Visioning Process
Steps 1 and 2 begin with people: Who do you want on your steering team? After you’ve established your team, the next step is to develop a first draft of your vision statement. Give yourself the kindness and understanding that you would give to a student’s first draft of a paper. Vision statements are complex, and it is impossible to meet everyone’s needs. The only goal of step 3 is to put initial ideas onto paper, so your team can approach steps 4-8: Refining your draft. Step 4 gives you permission to do what everyone has already been doing during their free quarantine hours, Google deep-dives. Step 4 includes the opportunity to research other schools’ visioning statements, read relevant papers, and learn from fellow educators. Visit these sites to begin your research:
Step 5 offers the opportunity to refine your vision statement, with input from more members of the community, based on insights from steps 1-4. Step 6 transforms your hopes into actionable steps. Dr. Mason and the co-authors of Visioning Onward propose the following guidelines to center your mission and goal statements during this particular moment in history:
Acknowledge the challenges: stress, grief, and loss.
Address race and equity. Include all voices and perspectives.
Include awareness about trauma, mental health needs, and resources.
Strengthen relationships with families and the community.
Identify a vision for a better future.
Step 7 and step 8 translate a conversation with your steering team into a unified vision. Step 7 challenges you to initiate a conversation with your larger school community about the proposed plan, while step 8 asks you to develop an action plan. How will you ensure that your visioning process guides the 2020-2021 school year?
The 2020-2021 School Year and Opportunity
Professor Paul Reville, the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at Harvard Graduate School of Education and former Secretary of Education in Massachusetts, offers a call to action in a recent interview, discussed on the visioning webseries (Mason, Liabenow, & Patschke, 2020b):
In politics we say, “Never lose the opportunity of a crisis.” And in this situation, we don’t simply want to frantically struggle to restore the status quo because the status quo wasn’t operating at an effective level and certainly wasn’t serving all of our children fairly. There are things we can learn in the messiness of adapting through this crisis, which has revealed profound disparities in children’s access to support and opportunities. We should be asking: How do we make our school, education, and child-development systems more individually responsive to the needs of our students? Why not construct a system that meets children where they are and gives them what they need inside and outside of school in order to be successful? Let’s take this opportunity to end the “one size fits all” factory model of education.
As educators approach the 2020-2021 school year, the “opportunities of crisis” cannot be ignored. COVID-19 has magnified and exacerbated the systemic disparities afflicting students from marginalized communities, highlighting the importance of creating inclusive and equitable classrooms. The “factory model of education” has long been broken, and this fall is an opportunity to create a new legacy in your community, with your students, at your school, beginning with a strategic vision—and a deep breath—today.
Learn more about CEI’s 8-step iterative visioning process in this 3-part webinar series.
Mason, C., Liabenow, P., & Patschke, M. (2020a). Visioning onward: A guide for all schools. Corwin.
Mason, C., Liabenow, P., & Patschke, M. (2020b). What will schools be like next year? Visioning for the future of education: A 3-part webinar series . New England MHTTC.