Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Jedi Master Speaks: Try Not, Do or Do Not

This past spring, many of my study group colleagues attended a workshop led by the sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. They returned invigorated and validated and inspired. They found themselves thinking about September and what they would do differently to prepare for a year of solid literacy instruction.

At this particular workshop, the sisters shared videos of their classrooms and talked in-depth about their space and how it supports effective literacy learning. My colleagues were intrigued by their ideas, especially the notion of a classroom where not every student has his or her own desk. They wondered out loud about what this would be like, how it would change the dynamic of the learning, and what the ramifications of making changes in their own classroom environments might be.

Eager for change, several of my colleagues returned to their schools to look at their space with fresh eyes. Should they exchange their desks for a few tables strategically placed around the room? They wrestled with the idea of having more students than desks. Would that work during content area instruction? Would there be fallout with parents or the principal? Where would students keep their things?

Were they sure they wanted to do this?

Where once they were jazzed up and excited to go back and make radical changes, now they weren’t sure they wanted to change at all. They faced a common conundrum: I want to do it differently, but I don’t feel comfortable.

Facing change is a theme that surfaces regularly in my life. I have seen change brought about by necessity to yield glorious and grand results. I have witnessed forced changes bring about unexpected consequences. But in each instance, it seems that change is always accompanied by fear. Sometimes that fear is debilitating, slowing innovation to a turtle’s pace or worse, bringing it to a complete halt. And sometimes fear is what invigorates, making the change positive and successful.

As you begin this school year, think carefully about the things you want change. Will you organize your space differently? Will you form a study group with colleagues so that you can become more schooled at the art of teaching? Will you approach your principal about the newest and best idea that you read about this summer?

No matter what change you’d like to make, do not forget that it is normal to feel afraid when embarking on a new journey and when in doubt, we should all return to the words of the great Jedi master, Yoda:

“Try not, do or do not.”

I intend this to be my year of great change and I wish you all the same. Don’t let your fear of change stop you. Just do it.


Kathi M. said...

Dear Kim,

After receiving your latest Literacy Builders newsletter,I have to tell you that I, too, was at the Two Sisters' conference this past spring. They are my mentors and when they said to "Think about what you really want and go for it," I did! For several years I had seen classrooms without desks in educational books however, I was naught intrigued. For some reason, this year, I couldn't stop thinking about going deskless...what would it be like? Where would everyone sit? Where would I teach? Ah, no hands forever in the desks!!Ah, room for morning meeting again!! All I needed was my mentor to tell me to think of what I really want, and I just couldn't stop thinking about it!!! I have set up my room and I am so very pleased with the way it looks. The teachers, secretaries, and principal (Whew!) love the way it looks too. I have spent much time figuring where things will go and where we will work,etc. Now, all I need is a classroom full of angels to actually live in the room and actually see what will work out where. I am so excited. Going deskless is the wind beneath my wings and I am flying!

Kathi M.

Kim Yaris said...


I am so excited for you! A classroom without desks...It sounds like you have found the courage to overcome your fear and embrace change! And with such a positive response yet! I hope you check in with us again to let us all know how it goes without desks during the first few days of school!