Saturday, October 4, 2014

irc in review, days 2-3

Hi all! Well, I'm sitting in the Starbucks in the Hilton, ready to write before my last session at 10:30. I'm still at the Illinois Reading Council (IRC) Conference. This morning I heard Jay Asher speak at breakfast. Yesterday I heard Lucy Calkins. Lots to share!

Well Lucy never disappoints. I'm a warm-fuzzy kind of teacher, so I appreciate it when presentations tend to this side of my personality. Lucy does it flawlessly, while connecting it with our own teaching and the Common Core.

She began by saying, "We need to say no to say yes so we can take our profession back."

Our profession is under attack - make no mistake about that. Corporate profiteers and people who have never set foot in a classroom think they know what is best for our profession. Just yesterday on Twitter:

Campbell Brown was like a news anchor or something. Not an educator. Yet right now, she's leading a lawsuit in NY to do away with tenure. Did you see the two people who retweeted to her after? People who are outside of education don't understand that teachers fight for their kids every day - and tenure allows us to do so.

But I digress.

My point with Lucy is that you have to say no to things so you are freed up to say yes to others. I say no to Basal Readers and Worksheets and yes to Reading Workshop. I say yes to putting authentic literature in children's hands, giving them consistent blocks of time for reading, and then I do this with intensity. I track it. I study it.

I also say yes to guided reading. I've been studying Jan Richardson's model and then I plan for guided reading so that kids can get what they need.

I say no to 100's of things - so I can say yes to the things that matter the most. Lucy said that the degree of implementation is important - if you implement 10 things with low to a medium degree - none of them are going to make a difference. But, if you pick one or two, and do them with a high intensity, you're good to go!

Say no to say yes. I like that.

The other big idea she spoke to is that we need to listen to our 2 or 3 big truths in our lives and then bring them to our teaching. Lucy is not against the CCSS, because they have allowed teachers to do great work in literature. We now dive much more deeply into author's craft and structure, we go back to the text as we discuss and ground our conversations in them. While there are things about CCSS that I'm not fond of, I do agree that they have caused me to improve my teaching - take the standards deeper and think about the levels of work my students are producing.

That being said, Lucy suggested that 10% of the CCSS should be what we bring to the table. We should include our passions and bring our life themes to the work we do.

One of my big themes, when I taught in middle school, was the idea of social justice. I wanted kids to use literacy to change their communities - it was powerful and purposeful work that I took to them. We read about things that lots of people skip over as to not offend anyone, but they were important to do so. When I get to work around my life's themes, my work is better and the children's learning is deeper.

In these times when it's hard to be a teacher, Lucy says that what's inside spills out. So what are your big themes? How are you taking them to your classroom? What are you sharing with your students?

Jay Asher
Jay Asher is the author of 13 Reasons Why. It's a mystery novel about teen suicide. I appreciate this book because not many people are having conversations about this topic. Lots of times we want to shy away from things like this because they're hard. But his book addresses lots of reasons and can provide a "lived-through experience" (Peterson & Eeds) that can help adolescents who may have thoughts like this.

So this morning he talked all about he came to be a writer, how it was a long process from his first book, 12 years ago (Hey Easter Bunny, You Forgot Something!) to 13 Reasons Why and his newest novel, The Future of Us.

He shared his writing process, the waiting until he finally got a letter of acceptance, and then emails that he received from adolescents about how this book helped them - one boy wrote to say he was going to stop being a bully. Another girl noticed someone in her class who was demonstrating some of the warning signs of suicide. The girl called her and talked her through everything. She probably saved her life.

That's the thing with writing - words have power. Words can make cause people to change their behavior or thinking and help someone. It's so amazing that his book, which was a work in progress for 12 years now touches children's lives in 30+ countries!

Also: He was hilarious!

There were some other sessions, but these were the highlights the last two days. I'm thankful for a district that values conferences and learning sends so many of us away to learn new things. Here are all of us with Lucy Calkins before she got to speaking:

Lucy Calkins, D100 Principals, Literacy Coaches, and Reading Specialists

Also, I really appreciate how my principal pushes Christine and I to grow in new ways - this was our first time presenting at the IRC and not my last! I've already got a bunch of ideas for next year!

Anyone else attend IRC? What did you think?

Have a great weekend!


  1. Loved presenting with you!! So proud of us :) Can't wait for next year!!

  2. I finally had time to catch up on blogs today, and yours is one that I enjoy reading very much, Michelle. It sounds like a pretty great conference, and I'm a little jealous ;)

    keep doing what you do!

    Ventaneando: A Window Into First Grade Bilingüe

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