Spotlight Article
Coaching Institute Participants Brave the Storm, Figuratively and Literally
November 2, 2012 at 3:10pm

Over two hundred coaches, administrators, and lead teachers from around the world came to Teachers College for the 8th Annual Institute on Literacy Coaching and Whole School Writing Reform. The institute began on late Thursday, October 25, with a keynote by Lucy Calkins, who inspired participants to see their writers more carefully and clearly, to be reflective and responsive to their needs. She gave participants a glimpse of the new Units of Study for Teaching Writing Grade-by-Grade due out in 2013, sharing some of organization’s newest thinking on teaching writers.

Friday, everyone went off to work in New York City classrooms across the boroughs. in sessions led by senior Reading and Writing Project staff, coaches observed, practiced, and received feedback on effective instructional and coaching methods. At one school, IS 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, several participants remarked, "it's amazing how fluently students can speak about their writing. They aren't just doing writing, they are being writers. They are aware of, and happy to share, their process."

Saturday participants joined with thousands of other educators at the Reading and Writing Project's semi-annual Saturday Reunion, a day of over 150 free workshops and inspiring keynotes by Tony Wagner and Jack Gantos. Despite Hurricane Sandy looming on the horizon, the day was well attended, nearly every workshop room each session filled to the brim, and nothing but positive comments and terrific learning to be had all day long. Lucy Calkins took the opportunity to draw the conclusion that education, at this point in time, is also in its own perfect storm - a moment that we can choose how to proceed, to decide how best to shape the future.

By Sunday, word of the storm was fast building, as the city hunkered down. And yet, Sunday morning, these intrepid educators made their way to Columbia University to work with Mary Ehrenworth on developing the adult writing within a school. The work focused on argument writing, and soon coaches were lined up, fiercely debating the role of the Giving Tree, as they practiced the work they would soon do with teachers and children. As Hurricane Sandy rolled in, everyone went off to workshops.

Always a community, the Project staff and the participants came together to set contingency plans for the impending storm. As news of school closures and transportation shut downs came, everyone worked together to offer bedrooms, arrange travel, and most importantly, keep everyone safe.

Monday, everyone hunkered down, as the city endured the worst storm in its history. On Tuesday and Wednesday, schools remained closed, power down all over the city, and transportation shut down. Nevertheless, individual Project leaders opened their homes to coaches, who gathered there to meet and talk. Audra Robb was the first to bring folks together in her Upper West Side apartment, which still had power. She led a salon, which quickly was reproduced in other homes and coffee bars. Wednesday, groups of coaches met around the Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan for impromptu group meetings and workshops with staff developers. Below, you’ll see Lindsay Mann gathering with coaches behind the plastic-sheeted windows of a building at Teachers College. On Thursday, those coaches who were still in the city came to TC to join with Project staff in think tanks. As one coach put it, “this wasn’t the most normal institute, but it ended up being my favorite! People were so good to each other, and I learned so much.”