#SOL16: March Challenge Day 20 – #TCRWP

nyc skyline

So what does the NYC skyline mean to me?  

It’s home to the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. And for two weeks each of the last three summers, it has been home to incredible learning documented on this blog.  Learning that has stretched me as a literate being, a reader and writer who learns alongside teachers and students.  Yesterday was a beautiful learning day as it was my third Saturday Reunion at TCRWP.  A day where attendees could hear Andrew Solomon, Lucy Calkins, Stephanie Harvey, Jennifer Serravallo, Carl Anderson,  Kathy Collins, Kathleen Tolan, Colleen Cruz, Amanda Hartman, and a whole host of other amazing TC Staff Developers.  ( Your assignment:  As you read this post, think about what you believe I value based on what I share in this post.)

A day of learning.

A day of choices (pages and pages in the printed trail guide and/or scrolling for hours in the new app).

A gift of a day.

But this gift was not without a price.

If Lucy Calkins’ closing keynote did not move you to action, please keep reading.  You missed the point!

Why are we here?

In Lucy’s own words, “We come here to feel less weird.”

We came to be a part of the tradition and the rituals of a process of continually learning.  We are a community of learners who have gold membership.  We are the traditions and habits of our lives.  Sometimes we stand out in our own schools and communities because we are not seen as conformists, we always want more for our students, or we really don’t want to be told by a textbook how to teach, so we quietly (sometimes) do our own little teaching in our own little corner away from the prying eyes of other less supportive communities.

But that’s not enough!

Spring is the time of new beginnings.  Lucy shared some characteristics of leaders: dominance, steadiness, influence, and compliance. We need to think about how we build leaders in our classrooms because leading only for the sake of compliance seems short-sighted at best.

What are the goals of our classrooms?

We want our students to be joyfully literate might be one answer.

So that means the teacher would set up the classroom so that students would have choices in their daily reading and writing work that would allow them to strengthen their own skills and knowledge as well as their own love of reading.  Simply stated.  Not so simply created.  This relies heavily on a deep understanding of the values, traditions, rituals and habits that are going to be the load-bearing walls of the classroom and sustain everyone in times of trouble. Everyone’s learning curve will be off the charts.


Teachers College Reading and Writing Project staff model this belief when 80 of them study together every Thursday and commit themselves to teaching and using that learning.  What a supportive community!

“No, we can’t come to your school on Thursday.”

“No, we can’t schedule on top of Thursday learning.”

Totally music to my ears.  Learning and growing together as a community to move forward. Choice matters.  We need to create these communities of respectful learning.  Some of us will seek out friends from across the country to continue to study and learn with, but we the adults, MUST do the work that we are asking students to do.


Literacy instruction is not about telling someone else HOW to do it.  It’s about the demonstrations and modeling that are steeped in the values, traditions and rituals of the classroom that support growth for all learners.  It’s hard to demonstrate when you’ve not done the work yourself.  You can’t anticipate the troubles.  You can’t anticipate the successes.  Your toolbox is empty if you haven’t done the work yourself.

Where can you start?

You can begin a habit of writing! Lucy shared with us that the action of writing about our experience helps us live a more wide-awake life!  We pay more attention to what is going on around us!  Make it a habit – and research says that five times of “doing” followed by “writing” can make it a habit.

Where will I start?

Another fact shared by Lucy was that the average person gets two minutes per year of positive feedback.  I’m gong to make it a habit, by the end of this year, to make sure that I give positive valuable feedback!  I’m long on the “will to get started” and short on the details, but I will have travel time to think about “how to implement.” I want to build that tradition or habit of being someone who provides positive feedback! (Currently, I’m not likely to say “That’s really pathetic” ALL the time; but I’m also not always as wide awake about small approximations as I should be.)

Why does this matter?

Habits constitute 40% of our lives on a daily basis.  I want 40% of my life to be devoted to more positive and joyful actions!  I want to help build MORE leaders! Our world is in dire need of great and empathetic leaders.

Are you a leader?

How do you lead?

“What tradition will you build in your classroom?”



With fellow “Slicers” yesterday, I discussed beginning two different posts and seeing how they went.  My first actions were to scan all 19 pages of my notes – making sure that the titles for each session were firmly embedded (then goodbye paper copy) and then I just thought about over all themes for the day.  I clearly heard that “we have to do the work” all day long in every session.  Then I decided that my first work would be retelling the story of Lucy’s closing keynote in many of her words and some of mine. Friends – 5 more sessions to talk about YET to come!)

slice of life 2016

Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!


36 responses

  1. I have been waiting to hear from someone who attended. I read so many slices yesterday that spoke of going to TC reunion. I am working on my habits – my “habit” of being a writer. It’s not a habit yet, but I am working on it. I am working on it so I can be the model for my students. It is hard work – that I know!

    1. Janie,
      It is hard work but I know that at the end of March, I am always a better writer than I was on March 1. You are on the right path because the “getting started” is often the hardest step of all!

  2. What a great program. I know with the practice of values and lessons learn your classroom will become a place of joyful learning. Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Mary! Always so much more to learn!

  3. I miss attending the reunion Saturdays at Teachers College! Always great PD for me, especially in the company of friends like Rose Cappelli and Sue Mowery. You gave us a lot to think about, Fran. I can see how much you are enjoying your time in NYC with other slicers! Thanks for this post!

    1. Lynne,
      Any learning community is a GREAT one but there is something about the GOLD at TCRWP!

  4. What do you value?
    1. Teachers being readers, writers, and thinkers themselves.
    2. Honoring that which we believe in by refusing to compromise.
    3. Maintaining a community of learners.
    4. Supporting the work of others.

    Thanks for reflecting on the day. I always enjoy Reunion Days though I couldn’t get to this one.

    1. The majestic setting of Riverside Church totally sets the atmosphere for beginning and ending a great day of learning!

      Thanks for sharing your values! ❤

  5. There are such beautiful take-aways from your experience. Really appreciate this post and your insights. ” leading only for the sake of compliance seems short-sighted at best.” Needed this reminder that learning can be messy. Now I feel less “weird.”

    1. I will take “weird” as a compliment any day! I’ve never been a good follower . . . for many reasons!

      Learning can be messy! Embrace it, expect it, and live it! ❤

  6. Thank you for sharing a bit of the magic of TC and Lucy
    “We come here to feel less weird.”
    So funny! So true.
    And this…”the average person gets two minutes per year of positive feedback.”
    That is something we teachers, we humans have the power to change. Every day. Thank you Fran. For being there. And here.

    1. Julieanne,
      This is the first of several about Saturday. Today I’m letting the learning soak into my brain – relaxing a bit!

      Or maybe I’ll paraphrase Lucy’s quote . . . “We came here to find other like-minded individuals so we could be in the Majority instead of the Minority! And celebrate the Joy of our Majority!”

  7. This sounds like a powerful, reinvigorating day. What a list of names in the field! So much information to be shared. I look forward to more posts about your day. Thanks for sharing, Fran.

  8. I will be back to hear more of your learning and thinking! I liked how you organized this piece and that it is about stretching that learning out to others to benefit! Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Carrie.
      This fits for my job which is basically a coach to multiple districts!

  9. I’ve been thinking long on how powerful positive feedback is to growth. My current goal is to find a way every day to genuinely compliment at least 3-3-3 – Three teachers I get to work with, three Students, and 3 other people I encounter. Thank you Fran – LOVE hearing your take-away here. And always appreciate you bring me in on your learning.

    1. Dayna,
      The 2 minutes shocked me (but then it shouldn’t have). Genuine, and with a “why” is so powerful and uplifting! Make 3-3-3 be your tradition – your legacy to the sweetest school by the sea! ❤

  10. Fran, I was there too and I so love your post. It took me right back there to Riverside. Thank you for your insight. Your style and format of reflection was inspirational.
    I will be posting on each session, one day at a time – probably in order because I am so linear! But today I decided to “Take a Break” Thanks again!

    1. Christine,
      The majesty of Riverside Church sets the stage for powerful beginnings and endings!

      I can’t wait to see your reflections and how your stories go!!! ❤

  11. Only 2 minutes of positive comments? How sad! But I can believe it. I am going to try to give at least 2 minutes to every student in my class this week. Thanks for that.

  12. You sound fired up! A great day of learning can do for you.

    1. Erin,
      Goal accomplished!
      Just like a B12 shot!
      Ready to tackle the rest of the year!

  13. I live vicariously through you when you get to NYC for the institutes and the reunions. Someday, I might be able to be there myself. I look forward to your future posts, they are always filled with great thoughts.

    1. Thanks and I absolutely adore sharing!

  14. Yes! I go to some music teacher conventions for EXACTLY THAT REASON–to feel less weird. Thank you for fighting for the students we all serve!

    1. Thanks, Emily!
      So many things right in education and we must continue to advocate for our students!

  15. I was anxiously awaiting for this post and then I couldn’t wait to find time to sit down and read it. So, this shocked me:
    “Another fact shared by Lucy was that the average person gets two minutes per year of positive feedback.”
    I applaud you for your new mission, and you have already started it here with your blog. Thank you, Fran for sharing! Attending this conference is now on my bucket list. I can’t wait to see what else you share.

  16. Lucy is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, she is! Two more months! We CAN do this!

  17. Thank you again for your generous sharing! As a former TCRWP staff developer I miss those Thursday Think Tanks dearly! I couldn’t attend the Reunion this past weekend, so I too am living vicariously through your posts!

    1. Your are welcome! Such a great day! I can’t imagine working where 20% of your time is spent learning together! How AMAZING!

  18. Fran, this slice is a gift! Thank you for putting a little peace and perspective in my heart and thank you for sharing your learning experiences. More, please! I will refer back to this post often for all the wisdom and inspiration you shared!

  19. […] that was incredibly difficult. (You can read about those sessions here, here, here, here and here.)  The #TWT Blog Series could be read in order or as I had time to savor the content.  The […]

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