Believing is Seeing

The people who can envision another way are those who will re-invent life and education as we know it. Those who can’t…won’t.

Which one are you?

There always have been, and always will be, those who can envision a world that is significantly different than that which currently exists. Then there are those who make excuses or find numerous reasons why those things can’t happen or won’t work.

The people who can envision another way are those who will re-invent life and education as we know it. Those who can’t…won’t.

Which one are you?

Belief Strengthens into Experience

Have you ever played the, “If I could design a school, I would…” game? If so, how did you complete that sentence?”

I did. And that vision became reality.

As I played the “If I could…” game, I developed a deep-seated belief that schools and schooling should be different and that teachers should lead the way.  Looking back now, I realize that as a result of my belief, opportunities to develop skills and abilities as a teacher leader began to come my way. The more I took advantage of those opportunities, the more opportunities presented themselves, and the better prepared I became. And this strengthened my belief.

Over time this became a cycle that fed itself; strengthened belief led to more opportunity that strengthened my belief and led to more opportunities and so on. Ultimately, this cycle led into the opportunity to design and launch the teacher-powered school, the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA).

The Way it Works

For everything from the smallest object to the grandest idea, all things are twice created. First they are created in your mind, then they become manifest in your experience. This concept is just as true for the pencil as it is for the system of a free public education for all. Each was first an idea (and belief) in someone’s mind. And it is this concept that set in motion all of the opportunities and experiences that ultimately resulted in the creation of MSLA.

Throughout history a wide range of individuals have taught this concept. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it and it will be yours”. Ernest Holmes tells us the “The visible is the Invisible made manifest.” And Melissa Etheridge sings, “If you think you’ll never make it you will, if you think you’re gonna break it you will… You are what you believe.
And if you believe,
then you will see, you will”.

Ultimately, what we believe on the deepest level, we create in our lives. This process creates a cycle that feeds itself. And each experience reinforces and strengthens the belief that created it.

If we believe that we are powerless, we are. If we believe that we can make a difference, we will.

Does that mean you sit idly by and wish things into being? Of course, not!

So, how do you manifest the classroom, the school, the profession or the life that you envision?

Where to Start

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create in your “mind’s eye” what you intend and believe that it is possible.
  • Take opportunities to prepare as though whatever you intend is already available. Act “as if”, whatever it is that you intend is already true.
  • Pay attention, notice, and act on synchronistic events. These are way-showers to put your vision into action.
  • Actively seek out opportunities to practice your skills and to actualize your intention.


  • What do you believe about yourself both personally and professionally?
  • How do those beliefs show up in your experience? How do they feed and strengthen that belief?
  • What do you believe about our profession? Our students? Our schools?
  • What is your vision for how schooling could improve for students?
  • How might you begin to lead change in order to manifest your vision?

​Envisioning creating your own teacher-powered school? Check out this step-by-step guide. Want to connect with like-minded educators across the country to share strategies and resources? Look to the CTQ Collaboratory.

  • abigailqberry

    If you build it, they will come!

    Such an inspirational post! I love the idea of looking for and acting on way-showers. My eyes will be more open after reading this to the candles that light the way. Thanks, Lori!

    • LoriNazareno


      Thanks for your comment Abigail!

      It’s funny how it all unfolds. The more you notice the candles, the easier they are to see. Eventually, you get to a point where you wonder how you ever missed them to start with.

      It’s a fun concept to experiment with. I’d love to hear how they start to show up for you.

  • Arno Peters

    I believe it.
    Very well put. I need to apply this thinking in so many areas in my life.

    we definitely need a change in the way our children are taught

    Bless you Lori

  • JustinMinkel


    Lori, your accomplishments are a powerful example of this belief in action.

    A couple of quite random thoughts that this elicited for me:

    1. Last night, I asked my 6-year old daughter what kind of house she would like to live in when she grows up. She went on and on, adding details to each level (her dream house, it turns out, is 8 stories tall, and she lives on the 7th.) I think this initial experience of imagining, in ever greater detail, is key for kids to someday develop the ability you have developed. Part of what I don’t like about excessive TV watching for kids is that it asks nothing of them. They don’t respond, and their imagination is not engaged.

    2. To your point about people finding excuses why dreams can’t be: Earlier this week, Senator Rockefeller (West Virginia) was interviewed about the water quality in West Virginia. He went on and on about the “little guy” getting squished by big corporate interests. It was good rhetoric, but Rockefeller has been a Senator for a long time, and he was Governor before that. If he didn’t see the creation of stricter regulation as a possibility he could have helped to make a reality, who could possibly do it?

    In the past 7 years, I’ve had opportunities to interact with “the powers that be”–Commissioners, state and  federal Senators/Representatives, State Board of Ed members, US Department of Ed staff. I’ve found two things:

    1. They’re often more dedicated, compassionate, and intelligent than I gave them credit for, but

    2. They’re ordinary people. They’re flawed, and they’re using their expertise and experiences to come to the best judgment they can reach, and they execute it to the best of their abilities.

    As teachers, I think we need to walk that line between humility and deference. We can acknowledge how much we have to learn, we can admit our mistakes and seek others’ counsel. But we also need to realize that we often have more decision-making power and potential for altering policies and institutions than we may think. It’s hard, exhausting work, but we can begin it, and we don’t need to do it alone.

    • LoriNazareno

      The door is unlocked!

      You are absolutely correct Justin, we (teachers) DO have more influence than we think we do. It seems like we frequently believe that the door is locked when, in fact, it is not. Sometimes, it just rquires taking the first step, turning the doorknob, to see that the door was unlocked all along. There are some times when the door is blocked a bit, but a good push could caue it to open and allow all of our desires to come flooding in!

  • LisaHettler

    Great thoughts and discussion

    I love this original post and I definitely am trying to make it more of a reality in my life. I have to work really hard to “stay positive” but I’m working on it. Something Justin said made me think though about how our society at large seems to be more and more about making excuses and not taking responsibility for our actions. I see this in even the very young children at my school who are all ready quick to blame others as well as often have such a negative attitude. It is really quite frightening. And unfortunately I think it is very true that these students who have had all ready so many bad things will have to have so many good things happen before they can start to believe it and leave it. As an educator though I feel it is my duty and calling to make these positive experiences happen and to help kids to see their own potential “way-showers”

    • LoriNazareno

      Yay Lisa! Whether we realize

      Yay Lisa! Whether we realize it or not, as teachers we are indeed, way-showers. We have a unique opportunity to help our kids focus on the good and know that they don’t need to believe everything they think. This includes casting blame on others and taking responsibility for our actions. Keep up the great work!

  • MeganOrvis

    A “Way-shower” !

    Thank you for a  great post!  Sometimes it just takes reading someone else’s thoughts to bring mine to focus and help me remember I am not the only one out there saying “If I could..or What if…”  I would say one of the first “what if’s” that has led me down the path of education was sitting in a U.S. History class, where the teacher lecutred for 50 minutes everyday and from that I questioned the method of teaching, which keps me questioning and revising my own methods of teaching and leading.  And this post reminds me that change is possible and one must continue to look for the positives along with the candles and way-showers.

    • LoriNazareno

      Change is inevitable

      Megan, Sometimes our greatest learning opportunities are the non-examples! And, YES, change is absolutely possible. In fact, it is inevitable. When a living things stops changing, it dies. It is jsut a matter of whether we want to shape that change or have to react to it. For me, I’d rather be the one who guides the changes. I sense that you are one of those people too. Rock on!

  • jozettemartinez

    The Power of Intention


    I love your ideas here… and I agree on every point! It’s remniscent the teachings of Wayne Dyer and Carlos Castenada, who really take the ideas of thought and teach others to intend good will, intend away dis-ease, intend prosperity and health into one’s existance. Dyer also comments that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This suggests that our focus too then, is a powerful change agent, and that once a thought is put into the action, it must be fueled by attention and positive thought, and surely it will come to pass. Castenada teaches us how to align our thoughts to our desires and helps us to focus on intending things that really matter- not Corvettes and designer hangbags (dang, I am funny!)  

    I love thinking about stuff like this. Thanks for the mind explosion this evening!



    • LoriNazareno

      Love Dyer and Castaneda!

      I love, love, love these authors as well! Thanks so much for extending the thinking and action part of this post! We DEFINITELY need to pay attention to where we put our attention. Whatever we focus on, we get more of. See the good and more good will come. Look for the challenging parts and you will find what you are looking for.

      I will say that folks have focused on, and gotten handbags and Corvettes. But you make a great point that, if we really do have all of that power (and we do) shouldn’t it be focused on things that REALLY matter?

  • Rachel Losch

    Vision, are some just born with it?

    How did I become someone with a vision?  Some say, “You have such a vision of the way things can become.”  For some reason, I believe that idealism and realism can collide within the school.  Not only am I in the school to assist in the development of our future citizens, but I want them to remember their experiences at my school with a twinkle in their eyes.  Some say, “You have raised the bar so high!”  I say, “Why wouldn’t I?”  I have a chance to enlighten and ernrich my students’ educational journey.  

    My own personal teachers had a vision for me, and hopefully I am fulfilling the hopes and dreams that they envisioned for me.  The teachers in my past are cheering for me as I fight for what is right for my students.  What if the candle is a torch that shall be passed to the next generation of teachers and students?  How many students/colleagues are ignited by your presence and your gifts?

    • LoriNazareno

      Shine on!


      I love the idea of the candle being a torch that we pass on to our students! This is so very true. There are lots of forces in our current culture that bombard us with messages of gloom and doom. It would be easy to believe those messages and squelch a vision before you even get started. Fortunately, there are also a growing number of folks, like you, who can see something better. The GREAT news is that those who can envision a better tomorrow will also create it. 

      What better gift to give our students than the belief that they can create a better tomorrow for themselves, their families and their community? Shine on my friend! 

  • pwcrabtree

    Inspiration to Reality


    I first heard about your story at a TURN conference many years ago.  Kim M, your colleague, and I had a great conversation about the incredible work you are doing at your teacher led school. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have said to a colleague, one day when we have our own school… 

    I am an optimistic and very enthusiastic… but time seems to be a hurdle that constantly challenges me. Would love to know more about how you educated yourself on what needed to be done… You achieved something amazing!! 

    My experience with my colleagues is that many do fall into the “why bother… we aren’t going to change anything” attitude.  Until recentlly… now I am activating our staff around budget issues and we are taking action.  I have never seen so many staff members step outside their comfort zone.  It took a lot of work, but I have never felt more proud to be part of my staff.  When we lift ourselves up and push over the barriers, anything is possible and YOU are an awesome example of that!

    • LoriNazareno

      Where to start

      Kudos to you for helping other staff at your school step out of their comfort zone, especially around budget issues. Budget is one of those areas about which more teachers could educate themselves and, thereby, have a bigger impact than they know. I was amazed at how much flexibility we actually had with how money was spent (or not). I realized that most of the times that teachers were told that there was not money for something they needed, it was because other things were prioritized that may or may not have supported student learning. I can honestly say that, in the three years that I was Lead Teacher at MSLA, a teacher was NEVER told no when they requested something for their classroom and/or students. I could go on and on, but won’t right now 🙂

      As to your question about how I prepared myself to do what needed to be done to start a school. Here are a few big things:

      1. I surrounded myself with the types of folks who focus on solutions and tend to say “Why not?” when someone dreams of possiblities. Most of these folks were right here in the CTQ community, though I also surround myself in the face-to-face world with these folks as well. I didn’t (and don’t) have the time or energy to be the same space with folks who crush a dream before its even started.
      2. Read, read, read and read some more. I read CTQ posts, business articles and books, Ed Week, research, spiritual books anything I could get my hands on about starting something new. I read emerging research about the brain and how students learn, about how to create a collaborative team that focuses on strengths, about how systems work and how to build one and more.
      3. I paid attention to opportunities and synchronistic events that “just happened” to come my way. Once we commit to something opportunities to make that “something” manifest pop up all over the place. The challenge is to recognize the opportunities and to take advantage of them. This could be something as small as book title being mentioned by a friend, then seen sitting somewhere and popping up on your Amazon recommendations. It could be as large as a new job opportunity or the sudden desire to move to a new state. You never know where information will pop up, but you have to look for it!
      4. I focused on the dream and was willing to take the steps needed to move in that directions. I don’t recall who said it but the notion, “Move confidently in the direction of your dreams” stuck with me throughout the journey.
      5. I connected with folks who had done some of this work before. The great news is, that we now have the School Redesign lab where you can connect with at least 4 teachers (Sean Woytek, Delonna Halliday, Cheryl Suliteanu and Brooke Peters/Todd Sutler) who are currently in various phases of designing and launching their schools. They have several posts about their journey and at least one has their school proposal posted so that you can see they types of planning that needs to be done to launch a school. I encourage you to connect with folks there if you want to learn more.

      Thanks for the comment and question. I encourge YOU to “Move confidently in the direction of your dream!”