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 Some changes were easy: new shelving, weeding an outdated collection, ordering lots of new books.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
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~ Jen and Darla