Why is Mission Important, and What is Vision?

What is your mission in life? What is your vision for yourself in the future? These are not questions you may ask yourself regularly. Perhaps you do so when you work with a professional coach, or perhaps when you are embarking on a new career path or involved in an interview. Have you ever thought intently about these questions for your children? What is their mission in life and their vision of themselves in the future--or yours for them? Independent schools usually go to great lengths to establish mission and vision statements. One might wonder why, given the basic understanding that a school is really about kids learning. It came through clearly from our Project Nest work that people at ASH see us as more than just a school. So what does that mean for us when it comes to mission and vision?
The Makings of a Mission
Mission is all about purpose. The mission of a school is a statement about why the school exists. Recently, it has become common to see statements about producing global citizens, instilling creativity, and inspiring learners to reach their potential. These are all valuable reasons to operate as an international school. One wonders, however, why it is necessary to remind ourselves constantly that we are here for student learning. Isn’t that what all schools do? Similarly, global citizenship and creativity need further definition to be useful as rallying cries for our work together. These can probably be more clearly defined through the projects we undertake. Furthermore, many of these sorts of statements feel like they indicate what the school does to students as opposed to what our entire community does together for the benefit of all. In the case of ASH, so many voices in our engagements described the school as “us.” The school goes way beyond what happens in our classrooms, so our mission needs to reflect that. The mission should also transcend time. The added value of being a key part of the ASH community should outlast the time we are lucky enough to get to spend at ASH.
Isn’t Vision About the Future?
In the explanation above, I mentioned that vision is about a desired future state, so how is that different from a mission that transcends time? The answer lies in what is being envisioned. Schools put forth vision statements to show what they as an institution are striving to become. While our purpose lays out our reason for being and the purpose to which we dedicate ourselves, our vision is about the kind of school we will become as we strive to meet that purpose. Vision statements are meant to be bold, giving us something to drive toward. As we get closer and closer to meeting that vision, it is time to move the goal post and set an even bolder vision.
The Full Package
At ASH, we are ready very soon to release new mission and vision statements that have taken into account all of the input we have received from a wide range of community members. These statements aim to encapsulate what all members of the community value and commit to in our mission, and, as a result, where we would like to go as a school that serves the needs of everyone in that community, not just our students. The final piece of the puzzle explains how we will get there, and that is where we lay out our strategies and the projects and plans that will bring our vision to life over time. The strategic plans and projects will be fleshed out over the course of the next semester for release after the spring break. Thank you for all your work together with your ideas and feedback that have led down this path. We look forward to sharing the result, and even more to working toward our vision together.

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