Spotlight Article
Highlights of the Saturday Reunion, October 27th, 2012
October 27, 2012 at 1:28pm

Just a day before Sandy began to roll in to New York City, about 2,500 teachers, principals, coaches, and school leaders gathered for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project reunion. Workshops were packed, and everyone focused to the last possible minute on ideas for raising children up as readers, writers, and thinkers. Never have the issues of education felt as urgent. Some highlights included…

Lucy Calkins exhorting participants to get out the vote, in her introductory statements. With the election only a week away, Lucy reminded her audience that an informed vote is the very essence of a literate democracy.

Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap, Change Leadership, and his new digital text, Creating Innovators, gave the keynote address. To an audience at moments humbled, at moments energized, and always riveted, Tony presented his research on the skills that are most needed by today’s students, in today’s world, and those being taught and tested. Tony reminded us that semi-skill jobs are disappearing at a rapid pace, and that knowledge itself is being commodified, globalized, and democratized, which raises the question of how the role of teachers might change.

Asking the question, ‘What skills matter most today?’ Tony’s research in what corporations and academic institutions most value suggest these skills: 1. asking good questions
2. collaboration, knowing how to lead through influence
3. the capacity to be adaptive and agile
4. initiative and entrepreneurialism
5. effective oral and written communication
6. accessing and analyzing information
7. curiosity and imagination

Tony encouraged teachers to speak up for what they think matters. His idea for a bumper sticker for teachers? Hold us accountable for what matters most. Tony urged the audience to think about play, passion, and purpose as being as important in the curriculum as they are in innovative workplaces such as Google. He finished with: “It is up to us as a profession to advocate for something better.”

Jack Gantos, noted and riotous children’s book author, regaled the crowd with his advice for how to find and develop stories. From his spy maps of his childhood, which included headless chicken races, wars with his teacher, and various misdeeds, to his early notebook pages (Jack saves his notebooks), Jack gloried in the work of harnessing your own life as a storyteller.

A master storyteller, Jack alluded to his experience as a youthful drug smuggler, his jail sentence, and then his transformation/iteration into Newbury award winning children’s book author. Jack offered up the storytelling art of merging the ‘entirely true and the wildly fictional.’ It’s no wonder kids love Jack. We all do!

All the participants, such as the team from Westminster Community Charter School, who flew in from Buffalo together early that morning, hopped a cab into the city, attended the reunion, and hustled back to the airport and to Buffalo that afternoon, ahead of the storm. Instructional Director Rob Ross, a former TCRWP staff developer, managed to bring his team of dedicated teachers to the reunion, divvy up workshops so they could share knowledge, and even give a workshop himself while he was here. Our Buffalo friends weren’t remarkable because they stood out, they were remarkable because they stood for all of you who got on buses, carpooled, flew, and rode trains to get here, even as a hurricane descended!