What If

slice of life

Recently I’ve been making plans for a Makerspace in our elementary library. About a month ago, Makerspaces weren’t even on my radar.  Shannon Miller had written a blog piece about Makerspaces on the go, after which one article led to another and another until I was up at one in the morning watching Ted Talks about the 21st century library.  After reading Laura Fleming’s (@NMHS_lms) book Worlds of Making, and making lots of notebook lists, I felt like I was ready to pitch the idea to my principal. Almost. 


You see, I’m new to our library this year. After twelve years as a fourth grade teacher, I jumped at the chance to interview for the Teacher of Media position that opened in my building. Our school had been without a librarian for several years, and the space needed some work. With the support of my administration we’ve made a lot of changes. Some changes were easy: new shelving, weeding an outdated collection, ordering lots of new books.  Others made me nervous: recommending an ebook site for purchase, building a new curriculum from scratch, implementing a whole school read aloud, or an author Skype with 200 of our students. 

There are changes that I make with complete confidence. Books. I know books. I never doubt myself when I place an order. Other changes keep me up at night. I lie in bed thinking about the What Ifs. What if no one likes this idea? What if there are glitches and instruction time gets wasted?  What if people think I don’t know what I’m doing? What if, what if, what if?




It’s the change that we’re not 100% sure about that scares us.  Maybe you’re implementing a new unit of study in your grade level, or embarking on a new project with your students. You might be trying Genius Hour for the first time or starting to blog in your classroom. It’s easy for our fear of trying something new to crowd out the obvious positives.

What If this is too hard for my students?

What if a parent doesn’t like this idea?

What if I get observed while my new lesson is failing miserably?

What If can be a powerful deterrent, especially for those of us who like to cross our Ts and dot our Is before proceeding.  Many times we feel like we need to be an expert before we implement a new idea.  However, we know that the road to expertise has a lot of trial and error along the way.  Until we try something with our students, we will always have a long list of what ifs.   It’s rare that the first time will be the best time, and we need to remember that success does not equal immediate perfection.  We think it’s time to start looking at What If in a whole new way.

What If this makes the difference in a student’s life?

What If this inspires the whole school community?

What If this was exactly what was missing?

What If this is the best thing we never tried?


There are still a lot of What Ifs in my mind when it comes to adding a Makerspace to our library.  Libraries are supposed to be quiet, right? What will people think if it becomes one of the noisier spaces in our building? Libraries are about books, aren’t they? Why do we need Legos and duct tape and scraps of paper and cardboard?  What will the schedule look like? How much instruction will be needed?

But what if this helps a child discover his passion?

What if this inspires more reading and writing?

What if we work together and make discoveries and change our learning lives?

In the end, it was the What Ifs that gave me the confidence to go to my principal. And with a list of What Ifs like this, the answer was

Why Not?


For all of the day’s Slice of Life stories head over to Two Writing Teachers.

~ Jen and Darla


26 thoughts on “What If

  1. Your Makerspace sounds so exciting! I would bet the kids will not only love it, but get a lot out of it. I am inspired by the way you took the What ifs that we all have about others judging us and turned them around into the but what if we don’t try this. In particular, I wish that observations were about getting feedback in areas that we would like to improve in, but its usually about being judged.


  2. “What if?” I have to pull myself out of the What Ifs? and into the “Why Not?” I LOVE “Why Not?” There’s risk in “Why Not?” and the opportunity to succeed and change! I’ve been avoiding maker space…but your enthusiasm has motivated me to check into it!! Best of luck with your proposal!!! Why not?!?!


  3. Great post. I like that you look at “what if” as an opportunity not as an obstacle. It’s admirable what you already have done with the library. Wishing you lots of energy and inspiration for the future.


  4. love that you are enjoying your new position in the library! I am also a librarian and it is the BEST.GIG.EVER. if you do it right! Sounds like you ARE!!! I loved your slice today—what if’s are what challenge/inspire/scare us and the changes can be very exciting. I often think of the posts I see on FB and Pinterest—what if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly? 🙂


  5. So excited to check out “makerspace.” Second post I’ve read about this “new” to me tech tool. Loved the examples you included with notebook pages, etc. Thanks! D 🙂


  6. P.S. I’m a 4th grade teacher and in the vertical literacy PLC for our building and we are planning a school-wide read aloud this spring. We are reading “Pie.” What books are you using and how did it work for K-4 (in our district 5th grade goes to the intermediate school)? Our Kdg. does not have buy-in. Hard to find a book that is appropriate with interest level and listening/attention level to a chapter book. Thanks for any books you might recommend as successful. D 🙂


  7. Wow – you crafted this writing piece so I could feel exactly all the good and bad reasons. It was so fast paced, just like how ideas do come to us so fast. One the one hand….but on the other hand….I ended feeling ready to go for the positive. So what if it ALL doesn’t work out. I am at least trying!!! I may print and tape this piece of writing up as a reminder to me to not be too afraid to take risks in life.

    Good luck with your decisions for the library. Your school is lucky to have such a thinking, researcher, risk-taker on staff! Keep following that passion! You reminded me to day to keep my own passion alive. Thank you.


  8. Thanks for this wonderful post and the quote from Pablo Picasso! I always struggle with what-ifs and you helped me see the positive side of it. Good luck with the Maker Space!


  9. I love makerspaces and think they are a critical space to have at school. You may want to follow @pammoran on Twitter. She’s a superintendent of schools in Charlottesville, VA. There are makerspaces in her schools. Good luck.


  10. What a fantastic demonstration of how to turn the “Whatifs” into something positive! I loudly support any and all change that fosters creativity. Best of luck to you as you redefine your school’s space and thinking!


  11. What ifs are the ponderings of reflective practitioners. They are the fodder for call to actions and they are the positive moves to move forward. Sometimes we need to prioritize the what ifs to see the sequence because too many what ifs can be overwhelming.


  12. Got the chills reading this slice!! I wanna go move mountains, your words are so inspiring! But it is more than your words, it is the actions you are taking that are most inspiring! And I love how you are changing the power of the What Ifs…it is a what if flip…getting rid of those downer what ifs is so hard and I am completely going to try the What If flip the next time I am on the edge of greatness!!!! Go YOU!


  13. So excited for your new creative work!! Kudus!!
    The whaddabout this, and whaddabout that we all hear in our heads are from a basic fear, aren’t they? And good to think for a few moments to anticipate problems, or set backs.
    But a clean “what if…” is where a writer creates from. Imagines. Plays.
    Thank you for this post!


  14. Oh, I so needed to read this today. My favorite line was “What If this was exactly what was missing?” I loved how your question changed at the end to “Why not?” I think your Makerspace sounds magical.


  15. I really enjoyed reading your post and especially love how you transformed what ifs into positive questions. Neat trick and one I will try to remember! Your words and your actions are both inspiring and it sounds like your move into your new position will be incredibly rewarding to you and to your students.


  16. Congrats on jumping into the library. I just heard about Makerspaces this week and I want to try it out in our school library as well. Funny thing I had legos once in the library and got rid of them, mainly because the idea I had for them didn’t work. Wish I had them now. I will need to watch the TED talks.


  17. Aaaaaah such a great paralyzer What If can be! I really really like how you turned it around though, that’s awesome! I’m pretty good at What Iffing, but after reading this hopefully I’ll change what that will mean from now on; thank you! 😀


  18. Teaching is so full of “What ifs” isn’t it? As is life. We just have to dive in and follow our instinct and I think it usually turns out great. I’ll look forward to knowing how the Maker center goes! I’d like to do some of that in my classroom.


  19. So many things to think about in this post. I think the question that you posed on the second half were incredible…my favorite…what is this will change a child’s life. It sounds like you are the right girl for the job. xo nanc


  20. I felt like you were reading my mind with all of those “what ifs.” It is crazy how much we can second guess ourselves. I feel like I spend more time over analyzing everything, rather than focusing more on the possiblities of positive outcomes. Excellent read!!!!


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