Saturday, September 26, 2015

An Afternoon with Lucy Calkins: A Picture Diary

The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins was published in 1994.  At the time, I was a sophomore in high school looking forward to prom, my next softball game, and Pearl Jam's next album.  Fast forward to 2001- I was a student teacher in a third grade classroom,  and I started looking forward to different things... one of those things being coming home from class to delve into The Art of Teaching Writing.  Now, in 2015, Lucy and her colleagues at Columbia University's Teachers College Reading and Writing Project are busy helping schools implement the recent Units of Study in Teaching Reading and Writing.  Over the past few years, my school district, Palo Alto Unified in California's Bay Area, made the commitment to teach the Units of Study in all of our schools.  Last school year, I worked closely with staff developers from Teachers College and the wonderful teachers at one of our schools, Walter Hays Elementary, to fully implement the Units of Study.  Needless to say, when our Chief Academic Officer called me into her office to let me know that Lucy Calkins decided to pay us a personal visit in Palo Alto at Walter Hays Elementary, I was beyond thrilled!  I was beyond words.

If you are an educator of literacy, you know about Lucy Calkins.  Lucy has definitely influenced your classroom practices in one way or another.  She is a true icon of literacy education.  After Lucy's visit to Walter Hays School in Palo Alto, I feel like I had just met Madonna.  Actually, it felt better.  I not only had the chance to meet one of my heroes, but also I was fortunate enough to spend two hours with her- talking with her about our needs, seeking advice, watching her confer with students, listening to her feedback, and basically becoming a better educator just by being in her presence.  

Lucy is honest, direct, and cares so much about the literacy development of all children (as you'll see below).  Enjoy my picture diary of Lucy Calkins' Visit to Palo Alto...

Lucy was introduced to a group of PAUSD leadership by Barbara Harris, our Chief Academic Officer.  Barbara also
gave me the opportunity to say a few words about how Lucy has inspired me as a teacher over the years - what an honor!

Lucy spoke with us and answered questions for an hour.  What can't be seen in this picture is that the real change makers in our district, our teachers, came in during their lunch break to hear Lucy speak.  I wish they could have stayed longer!

I couldn't resist!  I had to get a photo with Lucy!   

Helen Carnes, fifth grade teacher at Walter Hays, invited us into her classroom.  In addition to Lucy, there were many district principals, a board member, and Heinemann representatives all watching Helen teach.  It was truly fantastic! 

Lucy jumped right in to confer with students!  This is just one of three writing conferences that Lucy conducted.
Learning from Lucy conferring with students on the spot was just inspirational.  I honestly have no words.

She also closely observed as Helen conducted a small group conference.

At the end of the writing workshop, Lucy pulled Helen aside for a few minutes to give her both compliments and feedback.

To end her visit with us, Lucy joined Barbara, Walter Hays principal Mary Bussman, and me for a candid conversation.
This is something I will never forget.  I am so grateful for the opportunity.  It truly was better than meeting Madonna. 

My biggest take away from Lucy's visit is that it takes an entire school and an entire district to truly make change.  One or two teachers working hard is great, but it is simply not enough.  One thing that makes me so proud to work in Palo Alto Unified is that we're all in this together for our elementary kiddos' literacy development.  We're all dedicated to doing what's right for kids- making them proficient and confident readers and writers.  It takes strong leadership, but more importantly, it takes a dedicated teaching staff willing to learn new things and go the extra mile.  I am so proud that we're headed in the right direction.

Thanks for reading, friends! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings, Christina! What a pleasure and honor to learn with you all!


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