There is a great Italian proverb that I was reminded of recently:

“Tra il dire e il fare c’e di mezzo il mare.”

A literal translation: Between saying and doing there is the sea.

A more compact version: There is a sea between saying and doing.

In English, we might also equate this proverb to “easier said than done” or even to Carl Jung’s “you are what you do, not what you say you will do”

What is the connection to education, more specifically literacy, and why should this proverb matter?

A little food for thought…

Because between saying we will engage in the process of change or improvement (implementing/de-implementing something) and actually doing it, there is a sea that we have navigate. We need to fully understand it in order to chart the best course forward, one that ideally is effective and efficient.

As with the actual sea, we need to be aware of and thoughtfully consider the conditions that may be present as well as how we will shift and realign if the need arises. As with any journey, we need to be well prepared prior to our departure, in that we have everything we need and have done all the necessary checks.

Some examples of this understanding and preparation in relation to literacy initiatives, albeit not an exhaustive list:

  • needs-based analyses (why are we taking this voyage and how do we know it’s the right one to get us where we need to go?)
  • the context, culture and identification of facilitators and barriers (what are the known conditions and how will they positively or negatively influence and impact our work along the way? How can we mitigate any potential risks?)
  • the scope, sequence and timeline of the our endeavor as well as the tools we will need to use for measuring and keeping track of our journey’s progress (how do we know we are accomplishing what we set out to do and going to make it to our actual destination?)

This may seem like a lot yet the investment in time at the beginning yields greater benefits along the way and as a result. I often like to frame why this process is the better choice by posing the following would you rather question:

Would you rather jump straight into a journey with little to no pre-planning or foresight and find yourself way off course, either having to backtrack (wasting valuable time) or scrap the journey altogether (it was a failure) OR would you rather take a more deliberate approach to planning the journey beforehand, ensuring that you successfully get to your destination and in a more efficient and effective manner?