In this Sunday’s Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent, Jesus takes Peter, John and James up a mountain where he is transfigured. Moses and Elijah were also standing there with Jesus. Impetuously, Peter wants to build three booths, for this is a moment that he felt should be frozen in time. Right after that, however, is where Jesus says that he must suffer and die, and told the three to not say anything about the vision until Jesus rose from the dead.
Now how does that relate to your school? Certainly not that your school must suffer and die!
The disciples (learners, if you will), were given a vision. Not only a vision in terms of what they saw, but they saw what could be! Not only could they see what could be, it was a compelling vision. Peter wanted Jesus, Moses and Elijah to stay there – and he probably wanted to stay there too! Therefore, are we giving our learners (both students and their parents), a compelling vision? Are we telling them not only what we’re about (our mission), but why we exist (our case) by communicating to them a vision of what can be? A vision statement describes “where” we see our school in 3, 4, or 5 years. And since parents new to any school are going to be expected to continue there for 3, 4, or perhaps 5 years or more, we need to be able to speak to that reality, and not simply “hope” to exist from year to year.
Think of it this way. You buy a car, and finance it for 5 years. You must have all the confidence in the world that you’re going to like this car for 3, 4 or 5 years…otherwise, why would you commit to it? If, as a school leader, you’re hoping that your school will be open next year, and that’s why you hope the parent will enroll their child, that’s focusing on your school and its needs. Parents really don’t want to hear what’s in it for you; they want to know what’s in it for them and their children.
I’ve said this to many schools, and my comments have been met with a “Well, of course” comment; yet, the school’s actions tell a completely different story. It’s not surprising, though. Let’s look at the Transfiguration again. Peter saw Jesus transfigured into his heavenly glory before his eyes, but, he still denied Him on the night before His crucifixion, even after Jesus washed his feet! Imagine how Peter felt when he saw Jesus in his truly transfigured body cooking fish on the seashore for them. He should have known…and he did! It’s just that his actions weren’t congruent with his knowledge.
Here are some practical ways that school leaders have communicated their vision:
- Parents are given tours of the school when they are considering where to send their children for Kindergarten, but they are also shown the activities for their children when they reach 6th, 7th and 8th grade. As some Catholic schools don’t segment their primary, intermediate, and middle school grades, they can offer a vision of the experience their children will have as they continue to build the community of the school.
- A school prepares drawings of how the school looks currently, as well as prepares drawings of how the school will look with its new energy-saving roof, remodeled classrooms, safety upgrades, landscaping and other improvements that will enhance the environment in which their children will learn. These are the visible goals of its capital initiative, and fulfill a parent’s desire to see what’s in store for their children, and why it’s important for them to be involved in the learning process. Parents want to see pictures – ones in which they can picture themselves and their children
- A school that’s located in the hometown of MisterRogers hosts a “Good Neighbor” breakfast every year during Catholic Schools Week. The students (ALL the students in the school) provide the entertainment for the morning and act as food servers. While community members see the positive impact the school has on its children fostering a peace-filled and caring community, parents of Kindergarten students witness the value of service which will be imbued in their children as well as the talents that will be nurtured at the school.
In these days of rising costs, it’s not enough to say to parents that we have to raise tuition because of rising costs. That made sense to the Great Generation (those folks that saved aluminum foil, string and pennies because it was patriotic to do so), and made some sense to some of the Baby Boomers (since that’s the way they were raised). It doesn’t make sense to a GenXer, and certainly not to a Millennial! Higher pricing means improvements…not cuts to help balance the budget.
You can’t share a vision of the school if you, as the leader of the school, haven’t developed one. When a parent asks you, “Tell me about your school,” will you be able to paint a compelling picture for them?
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original publication date: 20080225)