Early childhood education vision and mission statements
If our vision statement is our destination, then our mission statement is the vehicle that takes us to our destination.
August 29, 2016 - Author: Kittie Butcher, Michigan State University Extension, and Janet Pletcher, Lansing Community College
Vision statements are what we imagine in a perfect world; they are an idea we want to see occur someday. They are big ideas that address complex problems or situations, not something that is going to be achieved in a few years. When Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech, he addressed how he envisioned a world of peace and justice. He said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He did not think it was going to happen in a few years because he knew that anger, fear and injustice were embedded deeply in the thoughts, feelings and actions of the people of our nation. He made that speech in 1963, more than 50 years ago. His dream is not yet realized, but many people have changed and, more importantly, that dream still guides many people.
Vision statements have a foundation in core values. These are basic beliefs people hold dear. Values such as freedom, honesty, justice and equality of opportunity are some of the basic beliefs most Americans cherish. Often, a person’s values derive from the family and their early years. Early childhood care and education programs, as organizations that serve families and young children, recognize that values are important and central to our visions and our missions.
Examples of vision statements
The following are some examples of vision statements from a variety of businesses and organizations:
- Help people around the world to eat and live better – Kraft Foods
- To make people happy – The Disney Corporation
- A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software – Microsoft
What would be an appropriate and inspiring vision for an early childhood education program?
What is a mission statement?
If vision statements are about why we do what we do, then mission statements are about how we do it. They usually emphasize a verb such as “provide,” “establish” or “help.” Verbs are action words, so they express how we implement our vision.
Some examples include:
- Spreading Ideas – TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design)
- Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty – The Humane Society
- We help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies – March of Dimes
Early care and educational profession
What about early care and education programs? What kind of vision and mission do we have when we think about our profession and its services? Addressing questions that define our profession, Stacie Goffin and Valora Washington ask, “What is the early care and education field’s defining intent?” in “Ready or Not (Early Childhood Education Series).” Margie Carter and Deb Curtis offer some suggestions in their first chapter of “The Visionary Director.” Other possible choices for the purpose of your program include:
- Provide a safe place for children to be while parents are at work or school.
- Provide a place where children will be able to learn foundation skills to be ready for kindergarten.
- Provide a place where children and adults will be able to participate in a wide range of experiences and develop their full potential.
- Provide a place where children can learn life skills to interrupt the cycle of poverty.
Holly Elissa Bruno in “Leading on Purpose: Emotionally Intelligent Early Childhood Administration” suggests seven standards for mission statements. They should:
- Inspire everyone who hears it.
- Empower staff to find their own purpose with the greater mission.
- Shine steadily like a lighthouse when storms bluster.
- Set a standard for quality performance.
- Reflect our deepest core values.
- Inform every decision.
- Remain timeless.
It may seem like a lot of criteria to take into account, but a well-thought-out vision and mission statement can fulfill these guidelines. Reflecting on just one criteria, “inform every decision,” we see that mission statements can provide a touchstone for every aspect of an early childhood program. From budget development to staff evaluations to relationships with families, if we keep our mission in the forefront of our minds, then we can be guided by its precepts.
For example, if our mission focuses on preparing children for kindergarten, we may not be flexible about our schedules and when families bring their children to the program. Our hours may be set so that children have to participate in the full routine/schedule of activities. If we focus on providing a safe care place, our hours will be more flexible to meet the needs of the families.
Thinking about how we treat personnel is another area that can be guided by a mission statement. If we focus on “providing a place where children and adults will be able to participate in a wide range of experiences and develop their full potential,” then it would make sense for our program to support professional development for teachers and other staff.
What would be an appropriate and inspiring mission for an early care and education program?
For more articles on early childhood education, child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.