I was a kid when I heard Robert Kennedy say, “Some see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Those words were lofty, audacious, challenging, hopeful, and enduring. Why not? My friend, Sandra Ellington, often responds to those who explain to her why something they haven’t tried won’t work with the simple phrase, “But what if it does?” I love her for that.

Although we are committed to understanding the WHY (as we should), often times that is the call from our safest zone – from a decision made or from a commitment agreed upon. But when we ask, “Why not?” we are challenged to help ourselves and others embrace the challenge of trying something new, of being bold, of risking failure, and, just perhaps, of being vulnerable. Are we committed to being right or doing the right thing? I have been reflecting a lot on that these days.

As I work with district and campus leaders, I often wonder “Why not?” Why are we not creating tests that we can learn from rather than creating tests where we know kids will fail in order to predict who will fail? Why not obsess on creativity and curiosity and wonder – for those are indeed the building blocks of rigor. Why not trust that autonomy and agency are the cornerstones of accountability rather than controlling every action of every day? Why not embrace the idea that learning can be engaging AND kids can pass tests? Why not? Have we lost our belief in others or, perhaps, our belief in ourselves?

A couple of years ago, I dreamed up a conference called think! where risk-takers would gather to think big thoughts, play with ideas, and dream of what school could be. Some asked me “Why?” I asked, “Why not?” Either we embrace ourselves as professionals, as thinkers, as innovators, as risk-takers – as educators who control the system, or we let the system control us. This is the third year of the think! conference and, perhaps, the most important one to me so far. We have reflected on our practice, we have innovated on the work, and this year… we dream! We imagine what could be. We inspire people to find the best in themselves. Dreamers imagine. Dreamers inspire. Dreamers take risks. Join us and take the risk. Ask, “Why not?” And then, with arms wide open, together, we take the leap. We hope. We plan. We try. We fly.

Come join us. Learn from those who asked “Why not?” and spend time with other risk-taking educators like you to create what could be. Our kids deserve it.

What: 2017 think! conference – dream
Why: You like learning with other risk-taking educators
When: November 30 and December 1
Where: Cedar Creek (between Austin and Bastrop) at the super-cool Lost Pines Resort
Who: Hundreds of awesome educators
How: Register at http://lead4ward.com/think/

-ervin