Leap of Faith: The Power of Listening to Create Change

When the world becomes a slippery slope, when it becomes a place unrecognizable from  what we thought we knew, when we are no longer certain of how it works and of our place in it, it is easy to want to retreat. To box ourselves off into what feels safe and secure. Though in doing that, we become ever more isolated and disconnected.

This recent guest post by the lovely poet Naomi Shihab-Nye, shared in response to the recent terrorism in Paris, so reminded me it is often the times we most want to cocoon away, we most need to connect. It feels counter-intuitive. But so many times when we take a leap of faith towards trust- amazing things happen.

It feels so much the same in education these days. There has always been a shouting of ideologies. There are always those who rush in with a “quick fix” that ultimately proves not to live up to expectations. Education has become so mired in the muck of initiatives and mandates that seem to forget we deal with human beings whose lives are rich and messy and cannot be quantified with numbers alone.  It is no wonder teachers these days have begun to pull away from the fray, holding onto what feels known and comfortable.

As our district has transitioned into using workshop models, I see this over and over. Teachers are are understandably afraid workshop instruction is just one more flash in the pan. They hold back from adopting the unfamiliar structures and cling to comfort of the known path. They feel so much pressure to help their students achieve and are uncertain this will get them there. Adopting workshop feels like leaping into the darkness.

I want to say, leap! Workshop is grounded in the students. It allows their stories and the stories of others to become the center. It gives students a voice and allows them opportunities to hear and reflect on the voice of others. It is through talking and connecting with others we turn fear to community, the unknown to a favorite destination.

But I am reminded, for this change to be true, for it to feel safe, and for it to last, it must also be grounded in story.  I need to listen. I need to hear what is needed. Small steps lead to shared cookies.

This is the world I want to teach in. This can happen here.


8 thoughts on “Leap of Faith: The Power of Listening to Create Change

  1. Julie, I could not agree more! Change is always scary, especially when it threatens to break down our long familiar patterns, that borderline “auto pilot” mode. It means work, confusion, frustration. But change is always exciting, because of the unknown on the other side. As for writing workshops, I started teaching them independently eight yrs ago, based on the workshops I went through in college. My whole online platform is based on helping teachers become confident in this new method of teaching, so that we can grow confidence in our young writers! Let’s start a writing revolution!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your writing is always so eloquent, Julie! Your words flow, containing the emotion and the struggles that are behind them. Keep getting them to jump in, as you know how important workshop is for kids. It IS hard though. It is unscripted and messy and uncontrolled. Teachers need a lot of encouragement to feel okay with those three things!


    1. Thanks for your kind words. Yes, The same things that make workshop so lovely to teach, are what feel so intimidating at first. I think the pressures they face make it even more challenging. But, one day at a time.


  3. We are leaping into change right now. My teaching partner & I are embracing it, even though it is hard work and uncomfortable at times. But then, there are the times it flows. And this is some of my best teaching ever, in part, because I have a great teaching partner who is doing the same thing and we can work through the kinks together. Some colleagues are struggling more than we are. We are trying to be quiet about our success, while serving asbeacons of light, letting them know they will be OK.


    1. I think one of the best things I ever heard, was Gay-Su Pinnell saying she had never seen, nor taught a perfect guided reading lesson. So freeing for all of us to hear, who worry so much about getting it right. I think we all need to see it as a process. A mini-lesson of reading conference may not be perfect, but it is our best offering at that time. When we continue to teach responsively, over time, we will get better…and so will our students. Little steps. It is great you have such a great partner for the journey.


  4. Several teachers I work with are leaping and loving it! The kids are enthusiastic and doing a great job. The best part is that all this excitement is contagious. It’s hard for the naysayers to argue with success! Love your blog’s new look, by the way.


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