Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ravitch, Riverside, and Lucy in the Parking Garage


I am writing this post now, in January, so that everyone who already has birthday parties and indoor soccer games or play dates scheduled from now until June can consider leaving a day open in March for an incredible professional experience. March 22nd, to be exact, is the date of the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion.

TCRWP of Columbia University holds a free workshop day twice a year, in March and October usually. Thousands of teachers from across the country attend to hear TCRWP senior staff, staff developers, and guest speakers present workshops on literacy, content, technology, and YES…even the dreaded state tests and teacher evaluation models.riverside

The day begins at 9:00 am in the Riverside Church where a keynote address is given to all attending. This year, educational historian, Diane Ravitch will be delivering the keynote address. Following the publication of her most recent book Reign of Error, Diane will no doubt discuss issues facing educators, as the Common Core, high stakes testing, and new teacher evaluation systems are changing the face of what it means to be a teacher.


After the keynote concludes, thousands of teachers will spread out across the Teacher’s College campus to attend four workshops of their choosing over the next few hours. Although the schedule will not be published until the day before the event, a past shedule can be found here. At 2:00 pm, everyone will meet again at Riverside for a closing address.

I cannot explain how important these events have been for me and the others who attend. Although you may think that the last thing you want to do on the weekend is to think more about school, I have found that these days have given me a renewed sense of connectedness with other educators and a stronger sense of purpose when I return to the classroom the next week. Although I have spent a lot of time reading professional material, nothing compares to hearing someone like Carl Anderson talk directly to me about conferring or having Lucy Calkins, herself, show me what a great argument and debate lesson could look like in my classroom.


So, if you decide to take advantage of this great event, consider the following tips:

* Arrive early. Leave yourself plenty of time to find TC, park and get to the Nave for the keynote. There are many parking garages in the area, but it is easiest to park in the garage underneath the Riverside Church. However, the lot fills up quickly. I have successfully parked on the street for free a few blocks away, but considering weather conditions, this will be a choice you have to make.

* Pack snacks. You won’t want to waste your time stopping to eat lunch. There are, however, places to eat within walking distances and lunch passes that can be purchased through the event.

* Bring your iPad AND a notebook to take notes. Many presenters also don’t mind if you snap pictures of their notes or charts they present.

* Don’t leave sessions early. This is frowned upon and rude. However, sitting near the door to make a quick get-away to your next session would be “smart thinking,” to use a Lucy phrase.

* Make connections. Follow the presenters and other teachers you meet on Twitter. Exchange blog info. Establish online relationships with teachers who teach what you teach.

* Most importantly! Don’t feel bad about yourself and concentrate on everything you think you aren’t doing right after a session. Instead, pick one idea to try the next week. You won’t be able to try them all, so don’t make yourself crazy.

Now, I realize that most people just read this post to figure out what Lucy in the Parking Garage meant. A colleague and I started attending the Saturday Reunions several years ago. One Reunion morning, we pulled into the Riverside Parking Garage to find the attendants running around, looking befuddled. As we stopped our car we were greeted, not by one of the attendants, but by Lucy Calkins, herself, taking down plate numbers and giving orders to the frazzled workers, who were not being quite efficient enough as hundreds of teachers were pulling into the garage. If you are familiar with Lucy at all, it will come as no surprise to you that when something wasn’t going smoothly, she decided it was her job to get it done the right way. I wished I had snapped a picture of this happening, but we were a little too awe-struck ourselves to have that presence of mind.

I do, on occasion, feel it necessary to get a picture with Lucy, despite my friend’s ardent protests. Although she is on a constant mission during these events, she is always polite and even smiles for the occasion. What can I say, we really are BFFs, and I’m sure she looks forward to this tradition each time we bump into eachother.


We love Lucy, and YOU will love the Saturday Reunion if you get a chance to attend.


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One Little Word


“Mommmm! You’re not even listening to me!”

And I wasn’t. My nine year old was right; I hadn’t heard a word that she said during the last two minutes. Maybe it was because I was trying to make dinner. Maybe it was because a pile of ungraded papers was staring at me from the kitchen table. Most likely it was because it was 4:30 pm, and I had about thirty-two browser tabs open in my brain at once.

So, I put down the knife and the green beans. I sent my other two kids off to their rooms to straighten up, and I looked at her and said, “You’re right. I wasn’t. Start over. From the beginning.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about my one little word for 2014. Yes, it has taken me a long time. In my defense, every time I started to warm up to a word, someone would tweet a new and fabulous post about that word, and I would be back to square one. But, I know I have it now, and I have my daughter to thank for it. My one little word for this year is listen.

Being one of those type A personalities, I am all about “the plan.” The lesson plan. The unit plan. The plan for dinner. The nightly homework plan. The plan that will get my errands done in the shortest amount of time, with the fewest amount of children crying by the end. And although I gather a great sense of security from having it all planned out, and a great sense of accomplishment when a plan goes well, I’ve been realizing recently that there are some pretty great things that happen when I scrap the plan and start to listen.


Like when my student Jenny kept telling me that she was trying to finish her current book as quickly as possible, so that she could get to what she really wanted to read. The plan: Finish the book, because you’re already half way done with it, and you know my two-chapter rule. Me listening: Abandon that book so you can read what you love now!

Or when my reluctant reader Chad abandons every book I put in his hands and returns to yet another book about snakes. The plan: You have to read a variety of genre to grow as a reader this year. Me listening: Read every snake book you can get your hands on, because I know you are actually reading, learning, and engaging in what matter most.

The plan: Read Charlotte’s Web as my next read aloud, because I’ve done that for the last ten years, even though I know I heard groans coming from the three boys at table five. Me listening: Let me tell you about these books that I absolutely love, and we’ll choose what our next read aloud will be together.

And most importantly, when my children come to me and want to talk while I’m cooking dinner, grading papers, writing lesson plans, saving the world…whatever. The plan: Let me finish what I’m doing, and then I’ll give you my full attention. Me listening: I want to hear what you have to say RIGHT NOW, because you are more important than any of my plans.

And that, I think, is a pretty good word and a pretty good plan.



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