So I became the leader of my very own department about 18 months ago. One of the first things any Middle Management book advises you to do as a leader is establish a vision – a vision that everyone buys into.
Rather than establish my vision, at one of the first meetings I led, we, as a team, sat round and discussed what our vision for the English department was. Working in pairs, the team came up with the ideas they wished to convey through a vision. Popping these phrases onto the board, we drafted and drafted until we came up with the following:
We challenge students to be the best that they can be, inspiring a curiosity and passion for our language. Our students will be equipped with the tools to understand, to question and to communicate effectively for a brighter future.
Working together, we will change students’ lives.
A vision everyone in the team was happy with. This was back in July 2013. And then we had the year that was. And our vision got slightly lost in the business of dealing with staff shortages and a year group with very little Controlled Assessment.
Having got through the year, in July, I went to the brilliant Festival of Education and saw Tom Sherrington speak. During his presentation he used the following image:
The message I took from the talk was about the importance of ensuring the foundations were in place before other things were trialled and tested. I felt this encapsulated our position as a faculty perfectly and it reminded me of the vision we had initially created. It brought the vision back to the forefront whilst reminding me that we are, this year, at the roots stage. We are at the start of our journey (sorry to be clichéd), setting the foundations in place and firmly embedding what works in order to help us move forward. We are still working towards the vision we had in mind back in July 13.
The session energised me – not only did I have the vision to go back to but I knew I had a visual that summed up the faculty’s position perfectly. Now was the time to start embedding the vision into our everyday work.
So where are we now? We are beginning to voice the vision on a more regular basis – initially ensuring that all paperwork has the tree on it and our vision attached. I have used the email signature to add the vision we have for English to the bottom of all emails and then, finally, today, the vision went up outside the entrance to English for all to see:
Sticking the vision on the wall means that it is impossible for all those who pass through the English corridor to miss it. Every day staff, students, parents and visitors will be reminded of our core purpose and when we are feeling tired and it is starting to get tough, all we need to do is to remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing.
Over the next few years, we will need to work as a team to live and breath the values that are encapsulated in our vision and ensure that we guide our students to be the best they can. This is just the beginning 🙂