The emerging field of educational visioning is full of challenges and phenomena worthy of careful analysis and documentation. A relatively neglected phenomenon is the learning curve of the leaders (often lay leaders) involved in the visioning process. This article documents a range of experiences of the author serving as a vision coach to five different institutions. The importance of treating the educational leaders involved in the process as learners is a consistent theme across five institutions. The tendency in the field is to think of them as transformative agents for congregational change. The author argues that this admirable goal can only occur with considerable attention to the pedagogy of teaching vision. This is a particular challenge given the highly abstract and conceptual framework of the volume Visions of Jewish Education (Marom, Fox, & Scheffler, 2003), which often serves as the “text” for the visioning process.
Beit Haverim, founded as a classical Reform congregation in 1948, has been engaged in a process of educational visioning since December 2004. Nearly four years into the project, the work is far from complete. Isa Aron's (2006) comment that successful educational change processes necessarily move into a state of “permanent whitewater” is apt for Beit Haverim. But, as their consultant and vision coach for four intensive years, I am able observe the translation of educational vision into educational practice even as I watch the whitewater swirl below.
This article begins as a case study of Beit Haverim. It is punctuated by a second visioning process that provides points of comparison and contrast. The inspiration for this work comes from the Mandel Foundation in two ways: the sponsorship of the forums and dialogues that provided the raw materials for Visions of Jewish Education (Fox, Scheffler, & Marom, 2003) and the foundation's support for a small group of Jewish educators who have tracked the uses and applications of that book. Tracking my own teaching of Visions of Jewish Education has deepened my appreciation for the loftiness of its vision. But the gap between vision and reality poses significant challenges for the “visioners.” The process of translation of vision into practice is full of challenges that are characteristically described as problems of change and organizational development. I suggest that these challenges should also be understood as more elemental learning challenges, specifically focused on the mastering of a relatively new and unrefined (at least in a Jewish context) language called “educational visioning.”