School has started for many (most?) of our Lutheran Schools. The start of a school year is often like a blank slate. Teachers and administrators go into the year with a great deal of focus and with several goals in mind.
But then the kids walk in the door.
And that changes everything.
I must admit that when I was in the classroom, I would often have many goals related to instruction or the subject matter that I taught. “I’m going to have students do _____” or “We will be sure to study ____” or “___ will be a focus this year.”
All of that planning, prep, and excitement… and it often wasn’t as ground-breaking or life-changing as I had hoped. Don’t get me wrong: Planning and preparation are necessary for educators.
But what are we doing here?
Are we teaching subjects… or are we teaching students? Are we trying to make sure that we “get through the textbook” (older paradigm); make sure we “cover what they need before the standardized test” (old paradigm); make sure that we “cover the standards in the prescribed sequence at the right time” (current paradigm) or are we ministering to students? Do we even have to view this as “either/or” or can it be “both/and?”
It is enough to make your head spin!
Before you head down those rabbit holes that can frustrate you as a teacher or administrator, please take time to consider your mission and vision. I know that some (including dear friends of mine) cringe when “mission and vision” are mentioned, but I believe that there is a great value in leading from your mission and vision. Doing so prevents you from getting sidetracked by tangents that can at best distract you or at worst derail the ministry.
Leading from mission and vision also prevents you from getting swallowed up. Let’s face it, we can bury ourselves in work if we so choose. But that last part is the key: if we choose. Leading from mission and vision makes it much easier to make choices. I like to think of ministry like a buffet: without some sort of discernment, it is easy to over-fill your plate. Using mission and vision as your guide gives you the “ok” to say no to things that (1) are not priority or (2) not in-line with the goals of your school.
Undoubtedly, as you begin the year, your head is full of great ideas and plans, but you may not be very clear on what to implement. The chart below can help you start thinking about decision-making from a mission and vision standpoint. It is a bit oversimplified, but it serves as a good start:
Notice that this chart begins with a review of your mission and vision and that review and possible modification of the mission and vision is a potential step in the process as well. Mission and vision statements that are not viewed regularly are meaningless. You must know who you (both individually–in your vocation–and collectively–as a school) are and where you (again, both individually and collectively) are going.
There is a reason you are here; there is a reason that God has called you to this vocation, in this time, and in this place. May God bless you and give you clarity of your mission and vision as you fulfill that calling with purpose.