Teachers College Saturday Reunion

cc image: Heather Paul

I attended my first Saturday Reunion at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) in Harlem last weekend.  Twice a year the TCRWP opens its doors for a free day of workshops with the leaders in the field.  It is an amazing event attended by thousands of teachers.  This made navigating the hallways of Teacher College much like Grand Central Terminal at rush hour, but it was well worth it.

The most challenging part of the day is deciding which workshops to attend.  For example, in one session I had to choose to attend a workshop by either Carl Anderson, Kylene Beers, Audra Robb, Lucy Calkins or Mary Ehrenworth.  Tough choice, but then again, how could I go wrong?

Over the course of the day, I was able to attend five spectacular presentations.  Among the highlights:

Carl Anderson
@ConferringCarl  spoke about the importance of providing mentor texts for students in writing workshop.  He gave advice for gathering texts and ways to use them.  As with many of the presenters, I learned just as much from the way he presented as I did from the content he was teaching.  I like the way Carl asks his students, “What are the moves the writer is making here?” when working with mentor texts.

Kylene Beers
This was one of those sessions that blew my mind.  Besides being an engaging, humorous and expert presenter, Kylene has a way of making you feel completely at ease, as if you were in the room alone with her.  She focused on some strategies that were not included in her book Notice and Note, Strategies for Close Reading (co-authored with Robert E. Probst).  She was able to show a group of several hundred teachers that, even though we all thought we understood the poem she shared, just one word changed the entire meeting.  I never experienced such an audible “ah-ha” moment as when everyone came to the realization at the same moment that we had completely misinterpreted the poem.  What a powerful lesson for teachers to understand the importance of vocabulary for students.

Colleen Cruz
Another packed room for a presenter who kept us laughing while sharing excellent resources.  Colleen spoke of the importance of using pop culture in our classroom.  We don’t have to like it, as she said, but we should respect the pop culture of our students just was we would respect the culture of a student coming into the class from another country.  Great advice.

Cornelius Minor
I have been a huge fan of @MisterMinor since seeing him at the Teachers College High Achievement in the Midst of High Needs Institute a few months ago.  Every day I strive to teach a little more like Mr. Minor.  He is a master teacher and can communicate his methods and philosophy clearly.  Mr. Minor believes that his role is not to teach to mastery, but to give students many opportunities for practice.  He understands that failure is a key component of every new concept being taught to students.  Incredibly, Mr. Minor can plan every minute of his lesson (in seven-minute chunks) and is able to pack an enormous amount of learning and practice into one period.  I know this because this is exactly how he presents his workshops.

After this first experience, I will definitely make it to more reunions in the future.

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