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On the Podcast: Leading Well with Lucy Calkins

LeadingWellPodcastBlogThis week on the Heinemann podcast, a conversation with author Lucy Calkins on leadership. In Leading Well: Building Schoolwide Excellence in Reading and Writing, Lucy Calkins draws on the transformative work that she and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have done in partnership with school leaders over the last thirty years.

Download a Sample Chapter of Leading Well

While a school leader should be inspirational, Lucy says leaders need to be much more than that. Lucy says, making monumental change in literacy education is no small thing and the most powerful leaders lead through influence—not compliance—rallying people to believe in the cause. She also tells us that a good leader reminds us there is dignity in learning and that leaders need to make themselves vulnerable as public learners to foster the kind of environment that will help their teams try new things and continually outgrow themselves.

Our conversation started out by asking Lucy what led her to writing a leadership book...

Below is a full transcript of the conversation. 

Lucy: I guess it's a couple things. First of all, I am a leader. I spend a lot of my time trying to rise to the challenge of leading well. It's very complicated work. It's what I think about a lot of the time just in terms of my ... it's very personal for me. I think about, "How do I be a better leader?", and I'm pretty self-critical and I have a lot of people giving me tips about how to be a better leader, so that's a part of it. I think the other thing is when we develop the curriculum and engage in professional development, it's almost like the schools are our sons and daughters and I feel like it's calling to help all of these schools to do the best possible, and I've come to believe that a really good school leader makes the world of difference. I'm so lucky to be connected to incredible school leaders, and really to a network of school leaders that become better because they have each other. I'm learning from them all the time, and I think the book is an effort to take what I've learned from my own leadership and my partnering with school leaders around the world and try to kind of bottle it in some way, and to do that for the sake of the kids.

Brett: Lucy, talk about how this book was written.

Lucy: Well first of all, it was lived before it was written. One of the reasons you see the contributing authors, Laurie Pessah and Mary Ehrenworth, is really the three of us are at the helm of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. So much of what I put down on the page is really things that we've learned together. A lot of the content is also content we've taught at principals’ conference days. So, first of all, the book was lived, and it existed in oral tradition. We have an institute every year for leaders and about 350 leaders from around the country come together and Mary and Laurie and I, and some of our other colleagues, Amanda Hartman, and Audra and Emily. When we lead that leadership institute, we have sessions on things like giving feedback and on creating traditions that bind a school together, so we drew on all the teaching we've been doing and all the work with school leaders that we've done.

I actually was up in the mountains. One of the reasons for the cover is that we have a camp up in the Adirondack Mountains and I retreated there for a month this summer. My son had just gotten married, my oldest son, and I think I was in one of those places in life which is a little bit of a turning point. You know, your son gets married and it sort of feels like you've just turned a chapter in your own life, and so I took some time to just try to think, "What do I have to say that's most important to school leaders?"

Brett: You write that a lot of this book was forged in the fires of our own regret. What do we learn from those regrets? What does it teach you about being a leader?

Lucy: Well you know, I wrote that because otherwise you could read the book and think that I somehow believe that I do all these things, you know? It's one of those ... I often talk about leadership, and I have my colleague sitting right there in the room, and I'll talk about how incredibly important it is to compliment people. I look out at them and I know I forgot to compliment my own people as much as I should. So I think I was partly just acknowledging that it's easier said than done. One of the things about being a leader is you cannot do it all, you just can't. There's always too much to do, and part of what a leader has to do is to write one's own job description, that is, you have to prioritize and you have to decide what are you gonna put your time towards and what are you not gonna put your time towards. So, I think I'm always aware of the things I'm not doing. I'm always aware of the priorities that are left on the side that I'm hoping to get to soon, and then there have been some times where I've looked back and I think, "I really blew that. I just blew it," and I've tried to learn as I get older to say I'm sorry. I think that helps a lot, to be able to just say, "I totally messed up."

Brett: Who do think this book is for? Who are you hoping will read this book?

Lucy: Well, I wrote it for one particular group of people. That is the school leaders in schools that are attempting reading and writing workshop. I'm trying to help them to do the best possible job, but of course, really I'm thinking of their teachers, and I'm thinking of their children, and I'm thinking of the parents of their children, so I really wrote it for those schools, the whole community. I believe the book has a lot of insights just about leadership in general. My son has just been promoted into a leadership role and I've been teaching him some of what I know about giving feedback, for example, or about the importance of setting your people up so they can do their job. That a good part of being a leader is not just what we do, but how we organize our leaders and our community. So, I think there's a lot of the book that would be relevant to any leader, but I really wrote it thinking about the principals in the schools that are attempting to do bold and beautiful literacy work, and I'm trying to help them to do it as well as possible. I'm sure literacy coaches are gonna read it. Yeah, there'll be teacher leaders who read it. I think it's for people who lead, and who particularly lead literacy reform.

How will they read it? Principals come to this work and are in different places, so certainly it will be very, very helpful for a principal who is new to the work, who either the school's been doing reading and writing workshop and the principal's new, or the principal is kind of thinking, "I might be leading my school towards reading and writing workshop, and I kind of want to know how to do it," and for those principals, I would recommend they start at the beginning and travel the path. There are a lot of principals who are leading schools that have been doing this work for three, four, five years, and I should have written this book a long time ago, you know? I know they're gonna be like, "Dang, it's coming out too late," but it's not too late because really the hardest part about leadership is not just leading in the beginning, it's sustaining that reform in the middle. So, for those principals, I'm kind of imagining they're gonna maybe skip some of the earlier chapters or skim them and kind of come more into part two.

And then there will be people who are interested in particular topics. There's chapters there, for example, the chapter on feedback or on instructional rounds or on traditions, or the chapter on test prep and standardized testing, so there will be people who just are interested in particular chapters, and I think the book will work very well as seminars on topics like that. I could imagine a district coming together and discussing the chapter on feedback, for example.

Brett: You write about the importance of literacy reform, and you write that it can help create a culture of improvement. How does literacy reform create that culture of improvement?

Lucy: It's the culture of a school being a place where everybody's learning curve is sky high. So, it's a place where kids are learning, but teachers are also learning, and principals are learning. It's that everybody is a risk taker and everybody's got each other's backs, and we created a place that's safe enough for us to try things and to mess up and to reflect on how we did and to set new goals and to get better. I think ultimately the power of a reading and writing workshop, a part of it is the actual power of reading and writing, but a part of it is that for too long, schools have been places where they kind of resemble and egg carton with each teacher in his or her little container with the door closed, and I think that the shared curriculum of units of study or of a reading-writing workshop writ large, it's a way of bringing people out of their individual classrooms into a think tank where together we can kind of make the school into all that it can be.

Brett: How is literacy reform a tool for improvement?

Lucy: First of all, literacy is at the heart of a school. Thinking about how do you lift the level of literacy instruction is really thinking about instructional reform in general. Of course, there's so many parallels between literacy and math, and that'll be the next book because that's a really exciting topic too. Linda Darling-Hammond once said that you can't really have a PLC, a professional learning community, unless you have a shared curriculum, and I think that I've written a book where I try to show how a shared curriculum can be part of creating a vital learning community in a school, a place where everybody's learning curve is sky high, and where teachers are learning and the principal's learning and the kids are learning, and it's sort of all happening alongside each other.

Brett: You write about how it's important for us to come together as learners to build a community to do this work, and you write that the work is messy and it's hard, but we can do it. How do we best get started in that community building?

Lucy: That's a huge question. Let me back up to the part of it that I want to address first. What teachers are being asked to do today is staggering. We need to outgrow ourselves at a tremendous clip. What teachers need to teach ... we're being asked to teach 5th graders work that most of us didn't do until we were in college. And these expectations are rising for teachers at the same time in which graduate schools of education, schools of education in general, are really under siege, and more and more people are able to get their master's degree from a little online program. One state in this country, 40% of the new teachers got their master's and got certified through an online program, where instead of student teaching, you can just sort of watch some videos. So we've got a population of teachers who actually have come into this work with less background than ever, and meanwhile, these expectations on teachers are so sky high. So, I think what's really clear is that the school needs to become the place where teachers learn how to teach. It needs to be the locus of teacher education, and for that to happen, there really needs to be a priority for teachers working together as a community.

I think it starts really with grade levels of teachers, and I think that principals are wise to say to teachers, "in this school, we don't teach alone." It's not gonna be one of those let 1000 flowers bloom, because 1000 flowers don't bloom. Frankly, we're being asked to do more than any one of us can do alone. I think it's important for principals to say, "I need 3rd grade, I need you guys to figure out your curriculum, your shared curriculum, and to figure out how you're gonna support each other in teaching it," and to really work towards having teachers plan curriculum together, be in and out of each other's classrooms, bringing their kids together sometimes, so two classrooms of kids are in the room at the same time. One teacher is in charge of this unit, one teacher is in charge of that unit. So that there's a sense of, first of all, the grade level as a unit for professional developments.

Brett: Why is it important for leaders to share the vision, and why is it important to rally others around it?

Lucy: One thing we know is that learners tend to learn rapidly when we're new at something, and then to plateau. The neurosurgeon who's been doing neurosurgery for 30 years is not that much more accomplished than the neurosurgeon who's been neurosurgery for three years. One of the challenges as a principal and as a teacher educator is to help people to break past that plateau because it's tempting as an educator to get into a kind of rinse and repeat. I've done this before, I know how to do it, and every year you just sort of do it again. Creating a school which is committed to sort of a continual improvement to constantly reflecting and aspiring, that means setting goals. It's a beautiful thing when a principal can help the school to come together around a sense of shared goals so that we're not just kind of like a Saturday morning flea market with all kinds of different haphazard things happening, but instead there's a sort of coming together to accomplish work that feels important.

Brett: You write about how an effective leader needs to be unflagging in their positivity about the work, and you say don't fuel doubts. How do leaders make it easy as possible for teachers to feel successful in that space?

Lucy: Well, when I said that leaders need to be unflagging in their positive energy, I was really talking about the beginning. I'm saying this will be hard. Making a monumental change in literacy education is no small thing. Sometimes when teachers begin to raise questions and to feel insecure, that makes principals feel insecure and raise questions, and to some extent you need to be all in in order to get the results. I think principals need to think very carefully about the direction they're gonna take a school in and to be all in when they make a decision.

Brett: You say that the language and the terminology that they use makes a big difference as well. Why is that?

Lucy: First of all, it's a slightly silly thing in a way, but some people talk about the work of a reading and writing workshop and they use my name. I've literally heard people say, "We do the Lucy," or something like that, which I'm like, "Oh man, please don't." The work is so much bigger than any one person. First of all, that's insulting to my colleagues. I work with a team of about 100 other people, many of whom are coauthors, all major figures in the field. You can't call this by one person's name, but I also think it's important to not refer to this work as a program. This is not a program. It's a stance or it's a project or it's an effort, or an endeavor. I think in that way, the language matters.

Brett: You mentioned before about an important skill for a leader is to know when to let something go, know where to put their energy and their focus. How should we determine the leadership responsibilities?

Lucy: I try in the book to talk about what matters most for the school leader. I think there are a lot of jobs that a leader can outsource, and then there are some which you can't outsource. I say to principals that the school leader does need to be the inspirational leader, does need to be the person who picks up the standard, the flag, and calls, "Olly Olly in free, come out, come out wherever you are." This is our direction. I think it's really important that we lead through influence, not through compliance.

I cite some research by Lyle Kirkman who used Myers-Briggs tests to assess people's personalities and he said that educational leaders on the whole have personalities that tend to be a lot like bookkeepers and that ... just like horrifying, and that school principals often lead through compliance, with a kind of 'Got my list, checking it twice. Gotta find out who's naughty or nice," sort of mentality. That really rang true when I heard it. It is true that there are a lot of principals, a lot of district leaders, who are trying to see if people are implementing the program and they've got their checklist. Are you implementing the program?

What that study showed is the really powerful school leaders are ones who lead instead through influence, through rallying people to believe in a cause and to invest heart and soul in work that feels big and significant. I think that that job of being the inspirational leader is all important. I also think that the principal needs to demonstrate for the people, his or her teachers, that there's dignity in being a learner, and that it's incredibly important when a principal says, "I need to take a crash course in this. I need a mentor. Can I try it and will you give me feedback? Oh my gosh, this is hard for me. I need help with this." That kind of willingness to be vulnerable and to be an open learner is, I think, again, something that the principal needs to do.

Brett: One of the things you talk about that's important is for a leader to develop other leaders and to delegate. How do we best delegate and develop those other leadership roles?

Lucy: In a lot of our schools we see principals take reading and writing ... let's for now talk about a K-5 school, you take reading and writing K-5, and principals think, "Who is parenting writing and phonics K-2, and who's parenting reading K-2? Who's parenting writing 3-5? Who's parenting reading 3-5?" And let’s say the principal said, "I'm gonna take on the job of sort of being the leader of 3-5 reading," then the principal can lead 3-5 reading in a way which is deliberately meant as a model for how others will lead their quadrants. For example, if teachers are using units of study, the principal can get those units and read the introduction to the units of study, which is just two, three pages to get a little bit of a sense of the curriculum. The principal can go into grades 3, 4, 5 classrooms and figure out who are some teachers who are doing this work really, really well, and then watch them and study what is it that they're doing, and then think, "How do I democratize those practices so that other teachers are doing that?"

So, the principal can deliberately work with his or her quadrant in a way that then shows the AP or the literacy coach or the director of ESL or whoever the other people are who are leading the other quadrants ways in which they can lead as well.

Brett: How do you tap into a teacher's talent? What's the best way to approach drawing that teacher's talent out, sort of inspire them to start to take on that leadership role?

Lucy: First of all, I think all over school there's just so many who are dying to be asked to lead, and that really ... it's not that there's a couple leaders, almost everyone can be a leader in something. I've learned from different principals. One of the people that I learned a lot from is Carmen Fariña, who went onto become the chancellor of New York City schools. Carmen was a spectacular principal. In her school, she had about four or five teachers at every grade level, and one of them was the lead teacher for writing, let’s say, in second grade. One was the lead teacher for writing, one the lead teacher for reading, one a lead teacher for social studies, one for math, one for science. Let’s take the writing lead teacher for 2nd grade would be part of an articulation team that was K-5, and the writing articulation team would meet to talk about how do we create consistency across the grades and handle some of that articulation between the grades. Carmen would make sure that the lead teacher in writing had access to extra PD in writing.

This was just one of the ways in which she kind of created this grid-like organization that held her school together. Now, when she had parent teacher nights, the parents would come in. Instead of the parents going to one teacher's class to hear what that teacher said about how reading, writing, math, science, and social studies would go, parents would get together and the writing lead teacher for 2nd grade would talk to all the parents what writing instruction is like in 2nd grade in this school, and the reading lead teacher would talk to all the parents about what reading instruction is like in this school. In that way, Carmen was trying to make sure that she was building off of teachers’ strengths and helping to kind of create an infrastructure that held together instruction across the school.

Brett: You write about the importance of a one on one with colleagues to sort of open up that opportunity to listen and learn more. Why is that so important?

Lucy: I think you're probably talking about the chapter that I wrote on feedback, which is one of my favorite chapters. Let me say a little bit about that chapter. In the whole book, it's probably the one that is most reliant on what I've learned from other people, so at Teachers College, we work with about 350 school principals once a month, principals and superintendents, so all of the people in our nearby area come together. We always bring a speaker to work with them. We brought some absolutely amazing speakers who have taught them, and really taught me, about feedback. I'm speaking particularly of David Rock and Sheila Heen. David's a neurologist and talks about the brain in relationship to feedback, and Sheila Heen is the author of Thanks for the Feedback, which is a book not about giving feedback, but about receiving feedback.

I was just earlier today, retelling something I learned from Sheila. I love reading professional books or hearing other professionals talk and learning from them. One of the things Sheila said, for example, I thought it was so striking. She said leadership is about having hard conversations, and when you're having a hard conversation, it's really helpful to begin and know that you need to have empathy for that other person, to listen with empathy. She says often that's not easy to do because it's hard because you're kind of mad. She said you want to remember that firemen train themselves to run into burning buildings and that is against anybody's instinct, and in the same way, listening with empathy is against our instinct in that moment.

We're mad at this person, that's why we're having this hard conversation. We feel like it's all their fault and ... listen with empathy. Train yourself. Remember, firemen can run into a burning building. You can listen with empathy even when it's hard. Then she said secondly, remember that you ... I can't figure out the other person's intentions. She showed a little screen of a big dot chasing a little dot, well, of a little dot and a big dot going across the screen, and she said what's happening here? And I'm like, the big dot is chasing the little dot, and she's like no. It's just a little dot and a big dot. Nobody's chasing anybody. She said, you're putting your intentions onto these dots and we tend to do that when we listen to people. Finally, she said in terms of the blame thing, it's co-constructed, both people had a part. It doesn't really matter what the percentages are, just acknowledge that there's been some trouble and we both have a role in it, and onward.

I find hearing people say things like that, and she talked to us for a day, and this was one of the kernels I took. But I think it helps you to be a good leader if you have some of these principals in your mind because it makes me not just react by instinct, but instead kind of have some guiding principles that I'm trying to live by. In the book, because I am so lucky to be around all these great conversations, sometimes I just put those conversations in there and talked a little bit about what I've done with some of what I've learned.

Brett: Along with that, you say teachers need to be seen, they need to be heard, and you say that similar to how we work with our students in early writing, they need to be coached out into the open to take on more roles in the building. Why is that so important to do? Why is it so important to initiate that invitation?

Lucy: I think we have to remember that the principal's job to a large extent is to lead the whole school, so there's a way in which the corridors, the library, the parents bringing kids in and taking kids ... all of that is a big part of the principal's job. The assessment system, the events, the whole school events, the PTA, all of that. I think it's important in a school that we create ... that's really creating to a large extent the culture of the building. I think that needs to be co-constructed, so I think for example, that the traditions that a school takes on is part of what shapes the school and makes it into what it is, just like the traditions make a family into what the family is. It's a statement of value.

I think for example, in some schools that I know, when the kindergartners have their very first writing celebration ever, the end of September, let’s say, at one PS59, they learn a little chant, "Two, four, six, eight, our stories are really great. One, two, three, four, we can't wait to write some more." The kids had this little chant, and they have all their pieces and they roll them up in a toilet paper roll. The kindergarten children parade through the school, "Two, four, six, eight, our writing's really great. One, two, three, four, we can't wait to write some more," and every child in the school comes out to clap for those kindergartners. The 1st graders, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th graders, and those children go through all the halls of the entire building with every child celebrating, "Yahoo, yahoo," and then they end up on the roof of the building, and they're calling this chant out into the New York City skyway, "Two, four, six, eight, our writing's really great." That says something about what the school believes in. It says something about the values of that school, and it says it not just to those new kindergartners, but to all of the people in the school.

I think about Mark Federman's magnificent principal of a 6-12 school, and he says to teachers when he hires them, he says, we've got the east side way. I hope you adopt 90% of the east side way, but not 100%. There'll be parts of it that are not quite right for you. He says, but what I absolutely insist on is you bring your own 10%. He says, I need what you bring to become part of what the east side way is. So he has all of his teacher identify a best practices. Yours might be debate, interviewing, yours could be interviewing. If that's your best practice, you and the principal work together to make sure that you take your best practice and make it better. He sets up some learning opportunities for you so that you can do even more with your skill with interviewing.

Then, there's every week, different teacher's best practices are on display. So he will say, this week Brett's doing interviewing, his best practice, periods 2, 4, and 7. Please make a point of stopping in there and getting a little sense of listen in on some of what he's doing. He has these PD days in the library, and he'll have in every corner of the library, a teacher doing a five minute trailer about their best practice. So you would do a five minute trailer in one corner, and another teacher a five minute trailer about debate, and another teacher about guided reading or strategy lessons, and he says that just five minute trailers because all I want is to begin the conversations, because we live together, we work together. We'll be able to have lots of time to follow up. You see, those kinds of decisions about how to create the fabric of a school that's beyond what happens in the classroom, they help to shape what the school means.

Brett: You've mentioned feedback quite a bit. It definitely is sort of, I feel, a theme that flows throughout the entire book. When you think about your experience as an emerging leader, what was the best piece of feedback you were given?

Lucy: That's a hard question, but I can tell you that I think that writing well and leading well have a lot to do with each other. In writing, one of the things that I try to do is to write with voice. Writers describe voice as the imprint of one's personality coming through. The sense of “I'm here, I'm real.” I try to write with voice, to be present in my writing, and I try to lead with voice, and to be present in my leadership. I think that the best school leaders are people who bring… you know that song, "All of me?” I'm not much of a singer, but I think that's it. You bring yourself, your foibles, your yearnings, your deepest passions, your vulnerability. You bring yourself to the work. I think that's important, and I think if I bring myself then I'm listening, and I'm there in a real relationship with my people, and I'm trying to grow something new together. I think we're on our way.

Brett: Lucy, what kind of advice would you give to someone who is finding struggle ... you know, when the going gets hard, and they're just sort of in that place?

Lucy: That's an interesting question because at the project, we have a whole thing we talk about to do with that. When you're writing, what happens is at first it's all flowing along and it's going easy, and then you start asking the hard questions. You start realizing it's not so great, and I read a book about Pixar. It was a book on creativity.

In this book, they talk about how actually the creative process is about letting things get hard. They said that it's a little bit like you go in a tunnel and at first you're in the tunnel, and you can see the light from where you've been and that kind of tells you you sort of know where you're going because you have the light from where you've been, but you'll come in the process of creating, you outgrow that. You're like, "No, I'm trying to do something new. I'm trying to do something better," and there comes to be a point where you're in the total dark tunnel. There's no light from behind and there's no light from ahead, and as a writer, the only thing that can keep you going is that you've been here before. You've been in the dark tunnel in other times in your life. You've been in the dark tunnel in other writing projects, and you just kind of keep putting one foot in front of the next, knowing that you will emerge. What happens is you start to see some light ahead and you keep going, and you end up in the light.

I do think there's probably in many religions, there's the story of the resurrection, there's the story of you have to ... in Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers, you have to bottom out. You have to allow yourself, even just in a story arc, if you just think of a story, what is a story but a character who has some motivations, who has some yearnings and encounters trouble? That's not when you quit and leave the story. Instead, that's where there's the rising action. That's where the character finds resources inside themself that they never knew existed and inside of the environment, in your colleagues.

So, I think it's important to understand that trouble is part of it, and embracing trouble and be willing to say there's trouble here, that's where new energy comes. I would say about the trouble is yeah, and I'm glad to somebody who says I feel like we're mired, I'm like, good. Own it. If there are no dragons, there are no heroes. So yeah, feel it. Own it. Make the trouble big, make it really big. Rally the people around the trouble and you'll find that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Brett: Really it sounds like what you're saying is that's the moment it happens to that community that you've spent so much time building at that moment.

Lucy: The thing is, there is always trouble, and just another ... I'm always referring to all these people I've learned from, but Roland Barth used to say to us, he says, the health of a building has to do with how many elephants there are in the room, and the elephants in the room are the things that everybody's talking about in the parking lot and in the bathroom, but nobody talks about in the public space, and he said in a healthy school, you talk about those things. You bring those elephants out of the closet and you talk about them.

Brett: You bring it out into the open.

Lucy: Yeah.

Brett: On the other side of that, what advice would you give for a school that's new to this work?

Lucy: Well first of all, I would say if possible, you want to learn about it before you dive in. I think you just want to learn how big and glorious and huge and all-encompassing and critical it can be so that you give yourself to this, and so you do it well. A vaccination is a little bit of a disease that guarantees that you develop the immunities against it. What you don't want is to adopt reading and writing workshop with just like one toe in, you know, poorly, lest you develop the immunity. We tried it, it didn't work. Far better to not go into this until you're ready to actually be all in.

Then there's just lots of practical things. I'll just give you a few, but for example, I think this work is all about doing it to scale. It's all about creating a community of practice, it's all about a shared curriculum, and truthfully, you can't really get high levels of reading and writing unless you're thinking about a K-5 or a K-8 curriculum, because it's like you can't teach people to multiply fractions if they don't understand fractions, in the same way you can't teach kids to write research based argument essays if they don't understand a personal essay, so having a whole school that's developing a curriculum where they're standing on each other's shoulders is really important. That's the long-term goal, but a principal will have to decide “do I want to go to scale right away, or am I gonna start smaller?” And what I would say about that is don't go to scale right away unless you've got internal capacity. You've got some people on your staff who've been to the summer institute or had staff development or who are writers and readers themselves and love this kind of work. Make sure you have the internal capacity before you go to scale and make sure that you have the public will, that on the whole your teachers are keen on this.

If you don't have internal capacity and you don't have the public will, then I would suggest you start smaller. There's a couple different ways to start smaller. One is to just after the high stakes tests, get people to do just a single unit. So in the spring of the year, it's a very good time to pilot new work because teachers know their kids, they've got classroom management done. If it's a disaster they can send them off in the summer and be done with it, so people feel safer. Piloting a unit in April or May is another way to help your school sort of develop the public will and to develop capacity, or ask for teachers who want to try it and get a smaller group to get started making sure they do so in way where they're basically creating a lab site right there and others can come in and learn from them. The advantage of a smaller group is that you the principal can give that smaller group the planning time they need. You can give them the resources they need, so you make it likely for it to succeed and meanwhile, everybody can learn off of all the things that they're learning.

Download a sample chapter of Lucy's new book Leading Well at Heinemann.com

Download a Sample Chapter of Leading Well

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lucycalkinsLucy Calkins is the author of the best-selling grade-by-grade Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades K-8and Units of Study in Opinion/Argument, Information, and Narrative Writing, Grades K-8 series, which have quickly become an indispensable part of classroom life in tens of thousands of schools around the world, the new Up the Ladder: Accessing Grades 3-6 Units in Narrative, Information, and Opinion Writing series, and classroom essentials such as the groundbreaking TCRWP Classroom Libraries and the Workshop Help Desk series. Lucy is also the author or coauthor of numerous foundational professional texts with Heinemann, including The Art of Teaching Writing, Writing Pathways: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions, Grades K-8 , Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement, and One to One: The Art of Conferring with Young Writers. She is also the author of The Art of Teaching Reading.

In her role as the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, a New York City–based organization that has influenced literacy instruction around the globe for more than thirty years, Lucy has developed a learning community of brilliant and dedicated teacher educators who have supported hundreds of thousands of teachers, principals, superintendents, and policy-makers in schools that bear their distinctive mark: a combination of joy and rigor in the classrooms, and entire school communities—teachers, principals, parents, kids—who wear a love of reading and writing on their sleeves.

Lucy is the Robinson Professor of Children's Literature at Teachers College, Columbia University where she co-directs the Literacy Specialist Program—a masters and doctoral program that brings brilliant teachers and coaches to TCRWP schools everywhere and to the Project itself.

She and her husband John are the parents of two sons, Miles and Evan.


Topics: Lucy Calkins, Podcast, Heinemann Podcast, Leading Well

Date Published: 01/03/19

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