photo credit @SuzanaSedlak
What inspires thousands of teachers to spend a precious Saturday rushing from one workshop to another hoping not to miss a moment? It must be the love of learning and yearning for growth. It must be the passion and commitment they have to the profession. It must be the love they have for the children they work with everday. It must be the relevance of the experiences to their teaching. Experiences that involve choice — lots of choice, excitement, exhilaration, loads of positive energy, commitment, passion, and hunger for learning.
This past weekend, I’ve experienced for the first time unparalleled professional development that was refreshing and breathtaking. Wow! What a wealth of learning and inspiration all packed in one very fast paced day!
On Saturday, March 28th Teachers College Reading and Writing Project hosted its 88th Reunion at Columbia University in NYC. Thousands of teachers filled the exquisitely grand Riverside Church, in which the opening and closing keynotes, presented by the marvelous Patricia Polacco and Kylene Beers, were held. What an absolutely amazing treat to be in the presence of these two wonderful speakers and authors who brought thousands of educators to tears and laughter with their charm, wit, and inspiration. You could literally hear a pin drop in the colossal building while the speakers shared their wisdom and captivating stories with an audience of enthralled educators.
Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project staff did an awesome job organizing and managing this massive event that attracted so many teachers from PA, NJ, NY, CT as well as many other places across the nation. Teachers were racing down the streets, despite unseasonably cold temperatures and light snow showers, and up and down stairways, to make it to the next workshop on time. Many were sitting on the floor while others stood when the rooms became overfilled and all seats were occupied. These teachers were hungry for learning and inspiration from reputable educators, educational experts, and authors.
A wide array of workshop choices at all grade levels were offered to the teachers. Clearly, a lot of thoughtfulness and planning was involved in developing such an outstanding professional learning experience. Teachers were flocking to the workshops because they wanted to be there, not because they had to be there; because they wanted to learn from the years of experience of the outstanding presenters; because they wanted to improve their pedagogy and continue growing and learning; because they wanted to replenish their buckets and toolboxes with practical resources and ideas that they can implement in their instruction and subsequently improve learning for their students.
Never before have I been amongst thousands of teachers with so much passion and yearning for learning and inspiration. At the end of the day I felt refreshed, inspired and renewed. I was reminded about the purpose behind what I do everyday. I reflected about the vision I have for myself as an educator and an aspiring educational leader. I was reminded about what really matters in education. What really matters when I’m in front of the children I teach. I thought about what is important about what I’m doing and what I need to continue doing because it’s good for the kids’ well-being and growth as whole individuals, not because it’s a mandate. At the end of this amazing day, I felt valued and fortunate to have been part of, what Lucy Calkins referred to, this “gift” of a day.
As I was listening intently to Kylene Beers’s fabulous keynote presentation at the end of the day, I couldn’t help wondering how wonderful it would be if all teachers everywhere can be part of such outstanding learning opportunities; if all school and district leaders would collaborate on promoting capacity for their teachers; if school leaders would facilitate professional development experiences that inspire choice and complement the needs of teachers and the students they work with; if teachers were involved in the decision making process where they have input in what they learn and how they learn it; if school leaders would tap into the rich human resources they have right under their fingertips without realizing it; if education leaders would empower passionate and effective teachers to take charge of their own professional development as they design their own learning experiences that capitalize on their expertise and extensive learning acquired from years of working with children. As Kylene Beers indicated, “The best teachers never needed mandates. Success will not be bound in a mandate or a standard.”
Just imagine for a moment the huge effect that would have on teachers and children everywhere. If we truly care about education and the future of our children, then we need to put our trust in the most important professionals on Earth—our teachers. We need to respect them, empower them and support them in achieving greatness.
The first word to define literacy is reading and through reading we empower children. With that power comes great priviledge…We have the ethical responsibility to empower kids! –Kylene Beers