Open Spaces

I am currently in Kathmandu at the NESA leadership conference and having a great time.  NESA (Near East South Asian Schools) was created many years ago to provide professional development for overseas schools in our region and is led by an inspirational educator, David Chojnacki.  At the opening address yesterday, David shared a poem with us to help us focus our efforts as we enter our weekend of sharing and learning.  The poem, “Fire” by Judy Brown was a great catalyst and really made me stop and think a lot about how we can use professional development to re-ingnite our passion for education.

Fire – Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log

tly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

This poem made me think about a video by RSA Animate which describes Steven Johnson's latest book, “Where Good Ideas Come From.”  In his book, he asks, “what are the spaces that have historically led to unusual rates of creativity and innovation?”   What he discovered is that there are recurring patterns throughout history that lead to the conditions necessary for innovation and creativity.  In addition, he contends that innovation has historically increased as the amount of spaces to share ideas has increased.  Fortunately for us, we exist in a period of time when the number of open spaces has exploded and many educators are using a wide variety of tools to collaborate and share strategies that will help to improve the learning of our students.  The great news is that this method of collaboration can occur at any time and from anywhere, and its effects are exponential.  The more people who take part, the more we will all be able to improve.

I know that many  people attend conferences to take advantage of the open spaces that are provided to connect with colleagues and share ideas.  This is a wonderful opportunity and I always return to school refreshed, reinvigorated and inspired.  I also know that these conferences are not the only way for me to share ideas with other educators who are seeking innovative and creative strategies for our schools. As David said this morning, it is the open spaces that can re-ignite our flame or passion for learning.   How amazing is it to realize that we have access to tools that allow us to share spaces and keep that fire burning on a daily basis?



  1. Sue Densmore said:

    This is great – and so true.

    Now I have to make those open spaces for my kids.

    October 22, 2010

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