Influence, Gratitude and LOVE

Saturday, February 7, 2015


      I have frequently, both in person and on this blog, called myself a literacy nerd.  I am the person who idolizes literacy gurus.  I read their books, follow them on Twitter, and when I meet them in public, I ask if I can take my photo with them.  I want them to know the influence they have.  I want those literacy gurus to know that the words they put into print were read by little old me, and helped to shape in some way the teacher that I am.  I think I now have, because of IRC, pictures with most of the authors whose books line my professional shelf.
**Tim McGraw also falls into this category.
***Some of my D100 coworkers might also feel like I stalk them, with all the tweets, blogs and emails I have been sending about their instruction.  Sorry, but you guys are awesome.

      Thursday was extra special.

     About a year and a half ago, I left the classroom that I loved to become a literacy coach.  I had seen so much change in education, and I really felt that my love of literacy would help me find a way to help the teachers in my building feel empowered in their own instructional decision making.  I wanted to help them remember that they have the power to make a difference in their students' lives, and that sometimes a little collaboration and support is all that we all need to get past the curriculum changes and standards changes and funding changes that seem to be constant in education these days.  I believed in my heart that I was in the right place.  I wanted to be part of the "all of us" that makes a difference for our students.

     After a month of school and still struggling with my coaching identity, I stumbled upon a webinar by Christopher Lehman.  I sat at my desk, with headphones in, and my lit guru crush began.  He spoke the message that I was looking for.  Love what you do.  Collaborate with others.  Believe in the students.  YOU ARE THE MAGIC.  I logged off the webinar and ordered Falling in Love with Close Reading.
(Read this blog post here for more of that first experience.)

     When the book arrived, hot off the presses, it transformed me.  The buzz words of close reading had been swimming around, and there were just so many versions of them to be found.  But, Chris and Kate's definition stopped me in my tracks.

Independent.  Text.  Media.   LIFE.   Reread.   Choices.   Reflect.  New understandings.  


     I'm not sure how a book about close reading made me appreciate my life more, but it did.  I began to see close reading everywhere.  On the playground with my own 2 kids.  Through the tears of a student.  In  Oreo cookies.  In visual images.  A new appreciation of the sunset.  I started to take notice of things that I don't think I had noticed in a long time.  I even wrote a blog or ten about the effect it had on me.  I became a better photographer because I noticed the details.  But, the truth is, because I was being more appreciative of the world around me, I think it made me more thankful of the little things.  

      Now how many close reading books can do that? (It was really the authors.  Kate Roberts and Christopher Lehman are inspirational literacy leaders.)

     A year and a half later, I finally got to meet Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts in person.  I had been waiting so patiently to get my picture with them, like the rest of my literacy gurus that I love.  But, this picture actually made me nervous.  In the last year, I have mentioned Christopher Lehman quite a few times on this blog after Teacher Poets, his webinars, his EdCollab events, etc.  I tweet him, and retweet him, a lot.  I even got up in front of my school district in a Keynote at Institute Day and, while talking about the power of Twitter, I may have bragged that he wished me a Happy Birthday on Twitter to 500 D100 staff members.  I was kind of afraid that he may have noticed my attention and feared me as a stalker.  I am harmless, really.  Just appreciative.  I love literacy.  And the people who inspire me in literacy deserve recognition.

     And then he waved hello to me at the conference.  He recognized me from Twitter, and waved hello.  OMG.

      Thank you, Twitter!!!  (Reason #578 to get a Twitter account if you don't already have one.)

     Chris and Kate Roberts were downright charming and hysterical and REAL.  3 books signed, two pictures, even some conversation with Kate in the line for the bathroom.  That is just how real these two really are.  It took everything in me not to nerd out and talk to them during lunch.  I didn't want to seem like a total stalker.  

      I was so excited to get the autographs that I didn't read them that day.  I just opened my Pathways book and teared up a bit, 2 days later.   (Full disclosure: It doesn't take much for me to tear up).  I led a Pathways to the Common Core book talk when I still was in the classroom, and it started to open the door to the world beyond 2nd grade and into the CCSS in general.  Look at what he wrote!!!  Goosebumps!!!  Thanks for your  positive message about the power of teachers, Chris.

     My big take aways from the conference?

From Kate:


     We need to high five our students' thinking, whatever their thinking is.  As teachers, we need to be aware of how our body language and our facial expressions often give away when we don't think their thinking is "high five" worthy.  Validate their thinking.  Then have a discussion around it, and take it to the next level.  For example, when we close read Katy Perry's Roar, she said that the kids might say "It wants us to roar."  Start with that.  Move them through the process and have them walk away with a deeper idea, but keep the idea their own.  Have the students do the actual work.  

     These are words to live by.   Every.  Single.  Day.  No matter the subject we are teaching.

From Chris:

     Close read yourself.  

     I might not always be the nicest person to myself.  Perhaps I should pay attention to the words I say to me, and the messages that I send with my actions.  It will help me be a better teacher, and a better coach, but ultimately a better mom.  I want my students and my children to be their own cheerleaders, and that needs to start with the models they see.  Perhaps sometimes I need to get my own pom pons out and be nice to myself so that my students see a model that shows that.  Or do something about the actions I notice that don't show the person I truly want to be.

     It was a great, great day.  I highly recommend seeing Kate and Chris is they ever come back to Chicago.  They really were the dynamic duo of the literacy world yesterday.  They could present the phone book and inspire us along the way.  Chris said that structure done right is almost invisible, and they nailed it with their presentation.  5 stars.

     In a quick shout out to others who have transformed me in my short coaching career, I just have to mention the work and tweets of Dr. Mary Howard, the words of Lucy Calkins, and books by Jennifer Serravallo.  I cannot tell you the impact Howard/ Calkins/ Serravallo/ Roberts/ Lehman have had on my PURPOSE for teaching and coaching.  Much gratitude.  Check out their work.

    So, as I close, I will leave you with an image of my own life.   Friday night, blogging about close reading, and my kids were playing with their new valentine seals.  

seals in a circle
hearts on their skin
red and pink seals
pink, yellow, red ducks
order and equity
"it's your turn"
collaboration in creating the game of hot potato

     What do my children value in life, based on their seals' game of hot potato?  They believe that we all are part of this world, and that we all can be joyful together.  In a game of hot potato, or otherwise.  Influence others.  Spread that joy (of hot potato).  Have gratitude for things that bless our lives (like valentine seals).  Be present in the moment.  Enjoy LIFE.

     With much love and gratitude, thank you Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, for your influence this week and beyond.

My challenge to you (my few readers):
Who has influenced you?  Who do you have gratitude for?  Let them know.  Send them a letter.  Tweet them.  Thank them in person.  I sent a letter to my 2nd grade teacher doing just that about 15 years ago, and we still send each other Christmas cards each year.  It feels good to let others know the power they had on you.  Share the gratitude.  Spread love.  :)

You are a pathway.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post, Leah - sounds like I missed a great PD with your fave guy! I love that quote, "You are the pathway" and your message about sharing gratitude. Couldn't agree more :-)