Home Improvements and School Improvements…

I recently spent a weekend painting and redecorating my living room. Stripping the old wallpaper on one long wall provided a lot of reflection time. There were times when the whole process moved along smoothly. Yet, there were other times when everything came to a standstill or difficult huddles needed to jumped. The whole process reminded me a lot of the school improvement efforts I’ve been involved with over the last eleven years.

Change takes time. My living room has had this ugly wallpaper for five years! I’m a bargain shopper and had purchased all the decorations and then some over the course of the last five years. I’ve had the end result in my mind. Knew the color combination I’d be happy with. I worked to slowly add ideas and items to my collection. I had successfully transformed the dining room and kitchen to the style I had wanted and knew I could be successful with the living room, but seemed to lack the motivation (and time).

So what changed – the announcement that family were coming for Thanksgiving! They had been here many times before. They never made comments of my ugly wallpaper, but I know I’ve become increasingly embarrassed of my lack of progress with the living room. It was time for lasting change! I drew from what I knew about the change process to move ahead with the living room project!

Collaboration: This wasn’t a project to be done alone! The more the merrier! My parents helped with the painting & a good friend helped with the final touches. Collaboration in school improvement efforts is likewise important. No one person can guide change by themselves. I’m reminded of a quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has.” My living room transformation  – especially the wallpapered wall is proof!

Areas of Expertise: Not only could the project have been completed alone, but outside technical assistance was required. I have not had much experience in the area of painting, yet my father of 81 years is an expert in my eyes! His advice, experiences and expertise were necessary in moving the project forward. I, on the other hand, have had some experience in removing wallpaper. The jobs were divided amongst us and the fun began! As an instructional coach and school improvement consultant I’m always looking for internal expertise in order to guide school improvement initiatives. I have found that the general school staff engages in efforts much more willingly when they are led by their own. I’m fortunate to work with building administrators and leadership teams that also value my own experiences to help guide them. Together we have developed professional learning opportunities that have resulted in accelerated student learning!

Directions matter! Wallpaper removal takes patience. The wallpaper came off much easier when I was patient and followed the directions. The directions allowed for a smooth and gradual removal. When I got in a hurry and didn’t fully follow directions, removal was frustrating. This equates to keeping with the fidelity of models being implemented. We can’t expect the same results in these practices when we change the model or strategy so far from even being recognizable. My beginning attempts to implement a readers & writers workshop approach was far from staying with the fidelity of the intended models. I had students reading whole class sets of books and basically basalizing the approach by finding “worksheets” to go along with the books. I was having students write to generated topics instead of helping them find the topics within them. I became frustrated. My frustrations lead to studying the approaches and changing practice that aligned with models. When I “followed the directions” and provided authentic reasons to read and write, my classrooms transformed into learning communities!

Time: There is no time like the present. I look back over the last five years to how many times I said I “didn’t have time” to start on the living room project. The final project took me a weekend!! I’m quite sure all the talk of redecorating the room amounted in far more time! I once heard a quote something to the effect of: We have all been given the same amount of time that Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and Alexander Gram Bell were given. Yes, it took time to get to removing the FINAL piece of wallpaper and a nicer living room, but it didn’t take that long! School improvement processes also take time. Talking or thinking about change won’t produce the change itself. Using time wisely, planning efforts with actions, rather than talk, leads to more success!

The results – a living room I can enjoy and a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, minus one nephew that had to stay at his college to march in the band during the football game the Saturday after Thanksgiving. In that sense, football seems to ruin the holidays. Georgia Tech went on to lose the game, but I bet the band was GREAT!

Keeping our eyes to the prize in both personal and professional change is important. Some times it takes stepping out of our comfort zones. Taking the journey with others is much more rewarding!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn‘t do than by the ones you did do.”

– Mark Twain


  • Aviva (@grade1) 5 Dec

    Kathy, this is definitely a very important message. I love the comparison that you made here. Change does take time, and it can be hard, but it’s worth it! I’m so glad that you’re always so willing to change and try new things in order to do the most for the students.


    • Kathy Perret 6 Dec

      Thank you, Aviva. Being reflective definitely helps when change is needed. A book that has helped me a lot in this process is called Mind Set.


  • Fran 5 Dec

    I love your blog and your message. I went through a similar process with my son’s bedroom. Before he left for the Army in April he “cleaned” it out in preparation of it becoming the guest room/ Mom’s space. It wasn’t until I knew for sure that he was coming home in October that I “found the time” to whip it into shape! That deadline was more than a gentle nudge.

    Your change message for school leadership and teachers is so powerful and clear!

    • Kathy Perret 7 Dec

      Thanks for you feedback. It is always appreciated. Deadlines are a helpful nudge, aren’t they! Glad your son was able to come home in October. Enjoy your new space as well!


  • Robin Phares 6 Dec

    Hi Kathy, What a great blog post. I love how you relate everything you do to education. That is the passion I believe many educators are missing.

    • Kathy Perret 7 Dec

      Thank you, Robin. I appreciate your response. Being passionate about our careers is important. In the area of education, our passions led to success for students.


  • Shelly Sanchez Terrell 6 Dec

    Great post Kathy! Love the way you use a metaphor for change to house improvements. Yes, it takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. It can be difficult for us because many of us are zealous and desire change but we have to level our excitement with patience for others that take much more time. We can’t give up, though, because we need all educators on board for change.

    • Kathy Perret 7 Dec

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I admire all you do and it means a lot to have received feedback from you! Your message is a very important one. We can’t give up, but we also need to continually remind ourselves that none of is moves through the change process at the same speed or at the same time.


  • Joan Young 16 Dec

    I love the analogy you used and how you broke down the task into the critical components for success. Often when we get frustrated with a teaching decision or task, we forget to return, like you mentioned, to the issue of authenticity. I was just thinking of this idea this morning on my commute to work. When we give students the opportunity to authentically communicate what they know it makes such a huge difference.
    Using the lessons we learn in our daily lives to demonstrate what we do in our educational worlds helps the general public understand all of the complex work we do!
    Thanks so much for sharing. I am enjoying your blog!

    • Kathy Perret 16 Dec

      Thanks for your comments, Joan! Yes, authenticity is a key factor in what we do! We need to continue to search for that and bring that to our students!

      Blogging has been quite the learning experience for me. Thanks to you and others in my PLN that have been an inspiration in this journey!


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