Professional development doesn’t get much better than The Reading Writing Project at Columbia Teacher’s College. The week began with a keynote by Lucy Calkins in the magnificent Riverside Church. My friends and I anxiously climbed the stairs to the cathedral, when suddenly I noticed someone I recognized standing next to the entrance. It was Chris Lehman! I turned to my friends to tell them about my star sighting. I rambled off a few of his books; Energize Research Reading & Writing and Pathways to the Common Core. Normally I would walk right over and introduce myself to someone I admired, but I froze. I became an absolute puddle. My friends were not much help at first since they were looking back at me, horrified. They had never seen me like this. I am normally confident to a fault. Luckily, they pushed me to go over and talk to him. He was so approachable and gracious. I introduced myself, and mentioned a conversation we had on Twitter. Whether he remembered it or not, he made me feel like he did, which was so kind. He also took a picture with me. My heart was racing the entire time.
This event was one of many amazing experiences at Teacher’s College, but I keep revisiting it in my mind because of the emotional and physical reaction I had to this experience. Why did I react this way? I started thinking about the fact that I LOVE reading professional development books, online articles and blogs. This is such a nerdy statement, but I really do. While some people sit by the pool and read novels, my nose is buried in professional development texts or on Twitter. The information shared by these authors inspires me to be better for my students. They deserve the best. Chris Lehman writes books that help teachers be better.
Once I returned home and had more time to reflect, I realized the emotion came from an interaction I had last spring when my dad had surgery. Time alone at the hospital is a scary thing, so I spent my time reading and on Twitter. It was the first time I read Energize Research Reading & Writing by Chris Lehman. I mentioned a few of my favorite parts on Twitter as I read, and within 10 minutes Chris Lehman and I began a conversation about the book. It was really exciting to be able to dialogue with him about his work, especially since my class was currently working on informational writing. It was a great day. My dad’s surgery went wonderfully, and I left the hospital with a new mentor.
Chris Lehman is an amazing writer, teacher, and mentor. Chris, along with all of the other brilliant teachers at The Reading Writing Project, are so approachable and generous with their time. These interactions were so important to me, and they are so important to kids. This year I am going to be more generous with my time. I will make sure I am available for conversations, whether they are face to face or digital, and supply the much needed feedback my students cherish.