Serravallo Struck

Friday, December 30, 2016


     I would say I am starstruck, as I often am.  I'm a #fangirl by nature.  But this time, I was beyond starstruck.  I was #SerravalloStruck.

     I became a literacy coach 4 years ago after teaching second grade for 15 years.  I knew second graders well, and they come in a wide range of ability, but I felt like I needed to up my game in knowing what readers at ALL levels do.  I learned by reading with kids for all those years in 2nd grade, so that is just what I did.  I went into rooms, sat next to kids, and conferred with them.  A lot.  At every free moment of the day, I would go into rooms across the school and read with kids, creating a staircase in my mind of behaviors that readers do.  4 years later, I am still building that staircase.  One of the ways some of those steps were built was reading with kids, and some were built learning from literacy experts.

     I found Jennifer Serravallo's book about conferring because that was my original goal for developing myself as a coach.  I read her work and watched a few of her videos, and I really liked what I saw.  I moved on to her small group instruction book after a few colleagues gave a PD and mentioned it.  The next summer, when the Playbooks were released, I read them with a coworker and we completely revamped our format for our formative assessment PD sessions for the summer.  Then, when I saw the Independent Reading Assessment, I begged my principal to buy them so that I could read the ladders and learn from her to reflect and continue to build the literacy staircase in my head.  And then... The Reading Strategies Book.  What a resource for our staff to use immediately, no matter the experience level!  I bring it with me to planning meetings so often that I even had a student look at me and say, "You look just like the lady on your book!"  I had become such a #fangirl that I think even the kids were noticing.  #twins

     In short, I have followed Jennifer very closely over the years, and today I finally got to see her in person.  The truth, however, is that I felt like I had already met her.  I have watcher her videos, and was part of her Digital Campus course, so I feel like I have been in a classroom with her.  I've watched her live on Facebook and read her tweets in chats.  But today, as I found myself face to face with her, I was suddenly so starstruck.

     And then I realized it was gratitude.

     Because of her work, I have put tools in my literacy toolbox, and hearing her speak today I was able to reflect on the impact they have had.  I flashbacked to myself sitting with teachers individually and making micro-progressions using the assessment kit as our guide.  I've gone into classrooms and done engagement inventories for teachers wanting help with readers.  I've modeled compliment conferences and talked about fluency records in building meetings and in planning sessions.  I've held PD sessions that focused on looking at student work, and asked teachers to bring student samples to our planning sessions.  We have completely revamped classroom conversations and book clubs after using her conversation records and TCRWP videos.  I could go on and on...  So many little nuggets of gold are hidden in her books.  Those nuggets, combined with my own knowledge, have been such a powerful combination.

     The thing that fills me with gratitude, though, is that by learning from Jennifer Serravallo and others, they have helped me develop into a confident coach.  Jennifer shares her knowledge with us freely, and that is a model for me to share with others as well.  If we don't see our fellow teachers as our dearest resource, I think we miss a huge opportunity.  Listening to Jennifer Serravallo talk, it is CLEAR that she is a product of all those she has learned from and alongside throughout the years.  She sees the impact others have had on her and recognizes it, and that is inspiring to me.

     It was also clear to me that the strategies and work that Jennifer has shared with us has come from real experiences with children.  She told us about her struggle to understand Nadia as a reader, and ended up creating the Independent Reading Assessment to get to know her reading habits better.  It isn't about using the "right" strategies created by others.  Sometimes, it is up to us to look to our students and create our own strategies to help them better.  

     I have had many conversations about professional development recently, and I am so filled with gratitude because I allowed myself to *want* to be a better teacher and admitted that I had things to learn, and it opened the door to so much more than I could have expected.  Watching her today, I realize that I still have so much to learn, and I looked around and saw myself surrounded by a table full of colleagues who I also learn from every day.

     It is up to us to see the value in learning from others.  Today, I got to see the impact it has had not only on me, but also on my school and our students.

    Here are my sketch notes from the day with Jennifer Serravallo.


(I wrote this weeks ago, and never hit publish.  Oops.  I am still filled with gratitude though!)

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