92nd Saturday Reunion

On March 19th, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project held our 92nd Saturday Reunion. We opened our doors to somewhere between three and four thousand participants, many of whom traveled long distances to be here. Although the drifts along the roads made parking extra challenging, the TCRWP community proved intrepid.

The day was especially important because of the opening speakers. Drew Dudley, whose TED talk, “Everyday Leadership,” is listed as one of the fifteen most inspirational TED Talks of all time, spoke at Riverside Church. Those who attended his talk on Saturday understood why. Drew defined leadership as “finding a way to make people see that they matter” and suggested that leaders empower others by asking, “What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?” People who heard Drew’s talk said it was one of the most inspirational they had heard, that Drew “lifted us up.”

Alfred Tatum, whose research focuses on the literacy development of African American males, particularly the roles of texts and writing to advance this, was met with equal enthusiasm. “He said so many quotable things, things we can hold onto when our teaching feels hard,” people said, and indeed, there was a flurry of tweets quoting his wise words: “One of the most ethical decisions you make is the book you put in front of children…[so] ask yourself, ‘Out of all the texts in the world, why am I putting this text in front of these students now?” and “Literacy instruction has to respond to the humanity gap,” which reflects his belief that texts can preserve one’s humanity.

There were 130 workshops across the day. Many were filled to the brim. “The secret is to wear sneakers and comfortable clothes,” participants shared on Facebook pages. They warned one another about the many stairs to climb and that some workshop would be so full that to get in would mean sitting on the floor. But the realization that the learning was worth it came through loud and clear in posts like this: “And bring lunch, because you won’t want be able to tear yourself away to get food!”

Lucy Calkins gave the closing address. She began it by pointing out that this is the first Saturday in 25 years when Kathleen Tolan, TCRWP’s Senior Deputy Director, who died unexpectedly in early December, wasn’t a part of the day. Lucy reminded participants that Kathleen changed people’s lives because she saw potential in us, in our schools, and by golly, nothing was going to keep her from showing people the potential she saw in us. “Let’s carry a bit of Kathleen with us as we go forward,” Lucy said, matching the theme put forth by both opening speakers—and embraced by the passionate community of educators with us that day.