In her new book, Leading Well, author Lucy Calkins draws on the experience she and her colleagues have shared at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project over the last thirty years. Lucy’s leadership is rooted in her practice of reading and writing workshop instruction, but where did that instruction begin and how was she called to literacy work to become the leader we know today? How has Lucy Calkins nurtured her own culture of continuous study? It started at an early age, as we learned when we recently sat down to reflect on her work as an educator...
Below is a full transcript of this episode.
Brett: When you stop and think about how you came to be at this moment in time, it all sort of started from a mission. When I go back and I read Lessons From a Child, you write about how your parents sort of taught you a mission. Where did that mission come from for you?
Lucy: Well, it's an interesting question. Clearly, all that I am is influenced by my parents. As I say that, I just spent last weekend with them. My dad is 98. My mom's almost 95. They're continuing to be this great force in the world. I think I grew up in a family that conveyed, in every way, that our role here on Earth is to make a difference. First of all, I have eight brothers and sisters, and my parents are both doctors, and Dad would be ... Christmas morning, he would leave the house with a big bowl of waffle mix, and he'd go to the hospital to ... carrying a waffle, the big waffle maker that you have for a family of nine kids, and he would head off to the hospital to make waffles for the interns and residents who don't get off on Christmas, and I remember saying, "Oh, Dad, you're the boss. Can't you get somebody else to go to the hospital and make waffles?" Dad said to me, "I don't need to do this, Lucy. I love to do it." There was always in my family this feeling of it's a great joy to be part of a community and to work hard for that community.
One time, I was doing rounds with my mother at Gowanda State Mental Hospital, and we visited the bedside of a maybe 25, 27-year-old girl who was comatose, and my mother said to the girl, "Would you like some soda?" The girl stared back, and my mom said, "Orange or Pepsi? Which?" The girl stares back, and my mom says, "Orange?" The girl stares back. My mom gave me some money. I was maybe in fifth grade or something, and my mom gave me some money to get the girl some soda. We're driving home from the hospital, and my mother said, "So, did she drink the soda?" I said, "Oh, the soda machine was empty. There was no soda." Mom's like, "So she never got her soda?" I'm like, "Mom, the soda machine was empty." So my mom turns the car around, drives 20 minutes back to the hospital-
Brett: Oh, wow.
Lucy: Stopping at a little 7-Eleven or whatever the shop was to get her some soda.
So, throughout my life, there were those lessons.
The other thing that was important in my childhood is that my minister was a man named Don Graves. I was very involved in the church, and Don, who you know becomes the great figure in my field of teaching writing, but Don, at the time, was a pastor, and he gave very good sermons. That's for sure, but he also would take all of us in the summer to rural Maine or other places like that, and we would lead camps for children.
In Sparks, Maine, I don't know if that place still exists, but in Sparks, Maine, 20 kids from my high school class and I led a little summer camp for children, and I had two kids that were mine, that I tutored them in reading and writing, and I remember driving home from one of those summers, and I had to speak in church the next day and talk about our time, and we passed a church that had a quote, like the… whatever it is, and the quote was, "Give what you can. To someone, it may mean more than you dare to think." I remember seeing that quote and I took it and put it into my little talk that I gave in the church.
Yes, I was brought up with this knowledge that there's nothing more fun on Earth than to try to do something that makes a difference for other people and to do that with a community of colleagues.
Brett: You also write that your parents really taught you there was a thin line between work and play. How did that influence how you work, your drive, and what it is that you do?
Lucy: I think that that's ... When you have work you love, there's no line between work and play. My great joy is my work. Again, I remember sailing with my father, the last sail of our summer vacation, and I said, "So this is the last sail, Dad. Back to work. Too bad." Dad's like, he's like, "Too bad?" He's like, "I can't wait to get back to work." He says, "Don't tell Virginia," but he says, "I don't just like my work. I love it. I love it." That's what I feel. I think of the project and of all that we do together as just the ... It's just a great privilege and tremendous fun.
Brett: Absolutely. When did education become your mission? Was it the time you spent with Graves, or was it your time at Williams? When did that influence you?
Lucy: I majored in religion-
Brett: Oh, wow.
Lucy: At Williams.
Brett: I didn't know that.
Lucy: It wasn't religion as in the Old and New Testament. It was religion writ large, and it was really about in reading books by people like Erik Erikson, and it was really about man's search for meaning, and I did imagine myself becoming a pastor, and I wanted that because I wanted to be part of a community of people who dealt with things that matter. I wanted to be with people, around issues that are life and death and that make a difference, but when I graduated from Williams, I didn't have the faith really to be a minister. I'm not actually that religious, so you can't really be a minister. The whole thing is a little ... You're not sure how cooked up some of this is.
I went ... At the time, Don Graves was very fresh with excitement about the British Primary Schools, and I was reading books, like Charles Silverman, Crisis in the Classroom, and so I left Williams and went first into Teacher Corps, which is a sort of TFA program, but it involved getting a Master's in education, and I taught at Weaver High School in the north end of Hartford, and I was totally unprepared and terrible. I probably wasn't as bad as I ... but I felt like I did not know what I was doing, and it was a very difficult school. There were five different principals in the course of one year, a lot of, lot of stories that I could tell about that year or two, and I went from that to Graves to say, "Where do I learn to teach?" Then, Graves said, "Head off to the British Primary Schools," and I had been reading all of those books, and so I flew to Heathrow Airport, and stuck out my thumb. That, my parents allowed me, but there were nine of us, so they weren't really keeping close track, and I hitchhiked to Oxfordshire and waited outside the office of John Coe, who was the senior education advisor, until he set me up in an unpaid apprenticeship at the Bicester Primary School.
I lived, at the time, I found somebody who would allow me to live in the nursery school they had at the bottom of their house, and so I would sleep in the little nursery school with the little red wooden chairs around on a little mat, and then, in the day, I would leave, and the children would come and have their nursery school, and I got myself a little motorcycle and would motorcycle over to the-
Brett: Oh, wow.
Lucy: Bicester Primary School where I was basically a unpaid assistant for the year, but, meanwhile, in the British Primary Schools at the time, there were these retreats for teachers, and so, on weekends, I would be part of these study retreats, and they were held in castles, and you arrive Friday night, and there's sherry in front of the crackling fire, and then, on Saturday, you do things like observe a mushroom and make little, delicate drawings studying the mushroom closeup with the magnifying glass and the fungi, or you would do creative movement, Laban movement. I know I did all of this, and a kind of ... Their bulletin boards would be corrugated card and then they would mount things, double mount them, every ... A child would have done a picture of a mushroom or something, and ever so carefully and then double mounted, and put up with this gorgeous bulletin board with a bit of fabric draped and a piece of plant or something, really teaching a valuing of the arts and of craftsmanship and of standards and of care and investment and project learning, and these were classes that always began with a morning meeting, and there was a lot of song.
I think I did learn something about a kind of workshop ... In a way, I think I was learning workshop teaching there without being a word I thought about. I was just there for a year, and then I came home and was part of a school system in Durham, Connecticut, that was trying to do an alternative, open classroom kind of approach to teaching, and so I helped to basically start some new schools, and those schools were part of a whole community of schools, and so we would meet in the one Saturday a month, and we would sing, Teach Your Children Well, If I had a Dream, If I had a Hammer, and study together and learn together, and I think, at that point, I was beginning to read Don Murray's work, and I lived, at the time, in one of those little beach houses in Madison, Connecticut, the kind of house that you just can be in from September till June, and then the people come for their summer vacation.
I remember one day being on Long Island Sound and reading Don Murray's work, A Writer Teaches Writing, and I was, in some way, lost, like young people are, but both my parents are doctors. My eight brothers and sisters are mostly all doctors or lawyers. Everybody went to Harvard or Yale. It's a very high-achieving family, and me choosing the field of teaching was not an easy choice in my very high-achieving family.
I found a book, Exodus, from when I was that age, in which I had written ... I still have this old book, and I have my handwriting, Lucy Calkins, Reverend Lucy Calkins, Dr. Lucy Calkins, Professor Lucy Calkins, Luci with an I, Lucy with a Y, Lucy McCormick Calkins, and I was trying to figure out what will I do with my life, and I had, by this time, been teaching for four or five years, and I wasn't sure. I loved teaching, and I was teaching with a marvelous community of people, but I was unsettled, and I was thinking about going to graduate study in teaching, to maybe ... I don't know. I can't even remember exactly what, but I know I was searching, and I remember reading A Writer Teaches Writing and looking up at the ocean and literally feeling that path of gold that you can sometimes have where the sun comes down, and I remember thinking, "Writer teaches writing. Maybe this will be my path."
I wrote to Don Murray, and I asked him if there was some way that I could study with him. I don't remember how I convinced him, but I asked if there was some way that I could study with him, and I don't think Graves was a part of this. I'm not, in my mind, so we can talk later about Don Graves and Don Murray and how they fit, but this was just me and Murray, and Don Murray said, "Sure," that he would be happy to work with me on my writing.
Brett: But you had to drive.
Lucy: No. This is the summer before all that started. I went up to New Hampshire, and I got myself a place to live near Murray, and I went to meet with him with my writing that I think I had done-
Lucy: By reading this book. Well, I had also done some writing when I was in the British Primary Schools. I knew that they were ... that I was so fortunate to be there learning, and I had done some articles that I had written from there that I'd never published, but just had things in my file.
So, I met with Murray. I went up one summer and got myself a little place to live near the University of New Hampshire, and I went to meet with the great man, and I brought him my writing. And he said he would work with me and that he would meet with me twice a week that summer. And he said, "Would you go home and write a 15-page story, the story of your life." And he said, "Just make it true with a capital T but not true with a small T and write it as fiction. Give yourself a different name but write the story of your life." And he says, "Bring it by day after tomorrow," or something like that.
So I go back to this little place that I got to live and I had to write a 15-page fiction story that was really my life story. And it was supposed to be told through ... he also said make it true with a capital T, not true with a small T. And he said, "And make it all be just ... instead of all the nine of you and your ... just make two or three people in the story."
So, I made a story about a girl and her father having some issues going on that picked up on my family’s struggles at the time. I basically picked up on my desire for approval from my parents whom I revered, but I was sort of the black sheep of the family. And I gave myself a different name, and I gave myself the name of Lee. And in the time between the first meeting and the next meeting, Don's daughter who turned out was named Lee died. And I continued to work with Don that summer after Lee died, and I felt that he took me on as his daughter. And certainly, I was there in that moment of his life.
When Don Murrary died 30 years later, and his funeral was held in the field house with thousands of people. I mean, you could be in a rock concert that that's the line. And I'm in this line, and I say to somebody beside me, you know, "How do you know him?" And she's like, "He took me on ... he adopted me as a young writer and he worked with me." And she said, "I always felt that he took me on as his daughter." And I realized this whole line of people all had worked with the great man and had writing help from this great man but felt that it was more than writing help, felt that it was something very personal, that it was and… kind of ... that my feeling with a relationship with Murray is really what this whole… So, I was not so unique after all.
But anyhow, so after that during the next year or two of teaching, I would drive up to have a conference with Murray and I would drive three hours. I distinctly remember standing at those roadside things where you could get a telephone. We didn't have cellphones, and waiting till the trucks were by for me to say, "I'm terribly sick. Yes, I don't feel very well." Meanwhile, I'm on my way up to University of New Hampshire for a 15-minute conference with Murray.
Brett: And that's all it was… was just that tiny window of time with him.
Lucy: I met with him maybe 10 times over the summer and then pretty much like every month for 15 minutes for a year or two. But then eventually, left teaching and came to work with Don Graves on the nation’s first big study of children's writing. And at that time, I studied properly with Murray. I took his course in Southfork.
Brett: Wow. Oh, okay. I didn't know that part, okay.
Brett: You write about when you transitioned from going into research with Murray or going into research with Graves, that that was kind of a tough transition for you, that you weren't quite sure how to get in to research. What was that transition like for you?
Lucy: Well, I don't know that it was hard. I didn't have a clue what I was doing but I had the naivete of a young person who ... Don had gone from being a minister to becoming assistant professor at University of New Hampshire. And he got this big grant to study children's writing and it was really the first study that has ever been ... big National Institute of Education study that had ever been done. And Don brought in two of us, me and a woman named Susanne Sours as research assistants.
And I don't think Don had that much background in research. Although he was not young at that point, I don't know exactly how old he was, but he was probably 40. But he had just come from being a pastor, so he had done a dissertation, but it's not as if Don had been steeped in education research himself. So we headed off to Atkinson Elementary school, and our charge was to follow eight kids for two years and to study their every move as writers and to watch how they develop.
So, I remember going in the first day into a classroom, and I had really no idea how to do research and Don had some but not a lot of background in education research. And we go in with the idea that we're to write down everything that these children do. So we hadn't yet ... I don't think we'd yet chosen the particular kids. But just imagine, we're in this class, and I'm very hard working and ready to do my job but nobody's writing. They're doing math, and I'm like, "What am I to write down?" They wrote 19 minus 10, you know.
So, I sort of went and sat at the radiator in the back of the room waiting to like, "Let's go to a different classroom, Don." And Don, you can picture him the way he gets with his head down. He's like “rr-rr-rr” around the classroom and I'm, "Come on, Don, let's go get our data. This room has nothing in it." And we go out in the hall and finally I drag him out. I'm like ... I'm ready to let out like a, "Oh, my God, was that place a wasteland."
And Don turns to me and he goes, "Sowee, wow, wasn't that amazing?" "Yeah," I said, "amazing. What did you see?" And Don said, "You know, chairs so high and desks so low. The kids are writing like this or chairs, low desks and high, they're writing like this." And then he says, "Did you watch that one kid copying his numbers, 19, 19." He goes, "19, 19, 19, 19, 19, 19, 19 minus, minus, minus, minus, minus, minus." So he starts imitating all the kids.
So that was one of many lessons that I got from Don in a kind of research. It wasn't the typical lesson on how to do educational research, it was a lesson in really a lot of what Don me is that writing with detail is really about living with detail and it's really about being attentive and it's about listening. It's about being present in the moment, not wanting the big stuff so much that you like don't see what's right there before your eyes.
You know, I think the biggest lessons that I learned from Don had to do with ... well, has to do with living off the land. That phrase comes to mind because after a couple of years of doing research with Don, I got married and invited Don to come back to be the pastor at my wedding. And Don begins the wedding by saying we've come from Guilford, Connecticut and from Phoenix, Arizona, from Salem, Oregon and from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We've come also from the birth of baby Rachel who's my nice born the day of the wedding, and from the death of Ed Cook who's my uncle who was killed en route to the wedding in a traffic accident. He said, "For everything, there is a season, a time to laugh and a time to weep, a time to be born and a time to die. And now is the time for the wedding of Lucy and John."
And then he turned and he said, "Lucy," and he basically introduces me to my own congregation. He says, "Lucy, who knows so well how to live off the land, how to take sticks and stones and turn them into toys and games for little children." And I sat there in my wedding dress thinking, "Is this the best thing you have to say about me, that I can turn sticks and stones into games and toys." Like, "Don," you know, we've been together for 20 years. Talk about my work ethic, talk about my ... something. Not that I can live off the land like I'm a good girl scout.
But years later I come back to that and I actually think that there's nothing he could have said that would have been more important. Because I think that that living off the land, it's really about take what's there in your life and make something of it. You know, we all of us just have our comings and goings. We have the details of our everyday life and those details can be incredibly important. They can make the world of difference. Or you can just be so busy, hurry, scurry, worry, flurrying on your way to something important that you don't see what's there in your life.
So that concept of living off the land is what Don really taught me in that first classroom when I walk out and I'm like, "Come on, let's go to a more important classroom." And he's like, "Oh, my God, did you see what was there?" So I think that's what the Writerly Life teaches is to pay attention, to see the wholly in what's there in our lives.
Brett: At what point did after that research was concluded with Don, what led to your first book? Where you just at that point after…
Lucy: My first book is my dissertation.
Brett: Oh, it is.
Lucy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brett: Oh, okay.
Lucy: Lessons from a Child was my dissertation, which I turned into a book. So, after I finished with Graves for two years, I went to NYU and got a PhD in English Education and used the data from that study that Don and I had done. So, Suzy Cyble who's the child that I wrote about in Lessons from a Child was one of the eight children that we observed for those two years and that's my dissertation. I mean, it has other pieces in it but that's the body of it.
Brett: It certainly doesn't read like a dissertation.
Lucy: No. And that I think the world looks back on Don Graves and says one of the great contributions that Don made to the world was that he created a different kind of image of what education research can be like. So, prior to Don, most education research was unreadable. I mean, you could read it but who would want to. And Don believed in research that was filled with the faces and voices of kids. And, of course, Don’s view of education research came from the fact that Don Graves and Don Murrary were best friends. And my view of education research came from the fact that ... at really, probably their formative time, the time when things were fast breaking and all coming together. I was right there in the middle of those two.
So, you know, I had two fathers, Don Graves and Don Murray and the two of them combined to teach me to write. So no, my dissertation doesn't read like a dissertation but neither does anything that I write read like a lot of what education professors write.
Brett: And that's a consistent theme in all of your writings. There's such a personal narrative that you weave in and out into everything that you write. There's always a little element of your life or some history or something that always carries with you. Is that something that came out of your time with Murray or is that just something that you ... where does that come from? Because it's just it's always there.
Lucy: Yeah. I don't know that I believe in that, necessarily. A lot of what I write is stuff that I've been teaching for a long time. So when I'm teaching, I try to teach well and I try to connect with my people. And then when I go to write, writing for me is just a form of continued teaching. So I think it really ... I don't think I try to make something personal. I try to write in a way that will matter. I try to cut through the bullshit and to say something honest. I try to have a real relationship with people.
Brett: From the time that Lessons from a Child is published, where did the projects start to begin?
Lucy: I left University of New Hampshire. I got married. I came to New York to live with my spouse and went into a PhD program, wrote Lessons from a Child. Was in the PhD program for two years. Finished the PhD and started the next month teaching at Teachers College in a program that was at the time in an English Ed in a high school program.
As I moved during the two years when I was writing my dissertation, I was also working as a consultant in school districts near here, around here. I was involved in Brooklyn and I was involved in Scarsdale and a number of ... some districts outside of Boston and just doing the sort of little bits of consulting that people do. But when I came to Teachers College, I had more consulting than I could personally do while doing a full-time job as a faculty member. So I brought a couple people ... I brought one person actually, JoAnn Portalupi, who is married to Ralph Fletcher now, to join me here at the project. JoAnn was gonna take on some of the consulting that I couldn't do. So it was just two or three of us. Then at the time here at the time here at Teachers College I had a lot of students from Colombia coming over, taking course with me. Some of those students were Georgia Heard, Ralph Fletcher, Rob Cowen, who's gone on to be a very important writer in the field. Nick Flanagan, an important writer in the field. So various writers would study the teaching of writing with me and ended up becoming part of the project staff.
Meanwhile, one of the people that we worked with particularly closely was a special ed teacher who was teaching in, as I remember, the basement of a Brooklyn school, a woman named Shelly Harwayne. Shelly was a fantastic teacher, and she ended up leaving teaching and joining the project as well. So we had a group of about eight of us for a while there that was the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
Brett: When you think about the project then and the project now, how has it evolved?
Lucy: Well it started as a writing project and after ... it was maybe 20 years ago that we became a reading and writing project. That change came with a couple big grants that helped us to ... at the time we ... part of the message of the writing project was that if we can write, then we can we be better as teachers of writing. The reading work of the project began with us leading 100 different adult reading groups all around the city. Teachers and principals and custodians and people gathered together around great novels. We read these books ourselves and then thought about, what is it that skilled readers do, or grown up readers do, that we could teach to kids. So just as we had been studying what proficient writers do ... What is the writing process that you can teach to kids? We were also talking about, what's the reading process that we can teach to kids?
So we became the Teachers College of Reading and Writing Project. That was maybe ... that was a long time ago, maybe 20 years ago, 25 years ago. Then I would say the next big iteration change was that we began to work with school administrators much more closely and deeply. So, yesterday for example, was one of our days with the school principals. Every month we have about 250 principals and superintendents who gather together. They're very much part of the project family and we ... part of what I was doing with them ... I had a lunch meeting with about 35 of them and I'm saying, "What do you need us to do differently next year to better serve you." That relationship of making this organization together has been important.
Brett: Are you able to pause and reflect and take stock of all the work that you and your colleagues have done for the education community? Or is it just, keep going, keep on the work, just keep moving forward?
Lucy: Well I think we know that a beautiful thing has happened as a result of all of this. I think all of us feel humbled by that and know that it is way bigger than any one of us. I work with the most extraordinary colleagues who are such a huge part of this. One of the things I regret is that sometimes people think of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and they think of it as connected to me. It is so much bigger than me. I am only able to do what I do because of my colleagues. I think the whole world should know of the brilliance of Mary Ehrenworth and Laurie Pessah and Amanda Hartman and Mary Ann Mustac, all these other people who are so critical to the project. Let me just also say the people who are here at the project are critical to the project, but also, our partners in the field. So we are who we are not only because of the people who are full time here, but also the people who really are part of the project in their different jobs.
Brett: Absolutely. So how many years into the project then did it feel to you it was time to create Units of Study?
Lucy: Units of Study is the gift of Carmen Fariña. I have always been a little bit of a rebel by nature. So I'm not somebody who thinks of ... I grew up thinking of systems as the enemy. You want personal, you don't want systems. Carmen believes that systems are life giving. The ecosystem, all kinds of systems, the digestive system. All systems are life giving. She basically taught me to tap the power of systems to help do larger work. So she said to us, "You don't want to be working in schools where every teacher is inventing his or her curriculum because if each teacher's inventing their own curriculum and each schools inventing it and everybody's doing it in a different sequence, how can you help them?" So she taught us to come up with the idea of a curricular calendar. Every year at the project at the end of the year, we put out a recommended curricular calendar, a sequence of what we recommend for the units of study for the upcoming year. It allows us to offer conference days that are lined up with the calendar of the upcoming year, so that we know in December, people are moving towards argument. And we can have a conference day on argument and we'll be ready to ... that conference day can support several hundred schools.
So we began with a curricular calendar and with coherent units of study. We were doing that for a decade or so before we actually wrote any of those units up. At some point we just decided that it would be helpful to put those into writing so that it was not all us having to teach it to people personally, orally.
Brett: So when you look to what's next, what's driving you today or you and your colleagues? Where do you and the colleagues wanna put your energy into next or where is your thinking leading you to now?
Lucy: Well I think there's the obvious short term next thing. First of all we're just finishing up a project in phonics that I think will have the same sort of revolutionary impact on Graves' work on early research did, in that I think that phonics has always been taught and written about a little like education research used to be taught and written about, faceless, voiceless and dry. I think that we are going to ... the phonics work will break the mold. It will say phonics can be taught with joy and with community and totally, totally integrated into reading a writing, particularly writing. When we finish the phonics work, the next project I have ... the people who are most on my mind are school leaders, and I know that a school really, really needs a wise leader. A lot of my closest friends right now are school leaders, and I think their job is very difficult and really critical. So I wanna help. I wanna write something for school leaders.
There are some major missions, so things that we need to learn about. I think that we need to get much better at making sure that we're giving access to all and really thinking carefully about UDL, thinking really carefully about, how do we help our english language learners. That's a hard topic, because it's a little bit like learning about phonics in that those are topics that I don't have the answers on. I've had to become, as old as I am, to begin to feel more comfortable taking on topics where I'm not the top dog, I don't know that. I don't have the answers, but I really love being in a position of being the top learner and just being on fire with the question. So I think we'll move into some of those areas and some that kind of work that the world really needs right now.
Brett: Wasn't that a key function of what you've taught us over the years about being the leader is being the top learner?
Lucy: Yeah, but I think I ... it's one thing to say it and it's another thing to be it. I think that I ... for a very long time, most of my writing would be on topics where I thought that I had so much expertise that I felt comfortable saying, "Gather around, I have something to teach you." Increasingly now I am taking on topics where I have to really learn from people all around me and just outgrow myself and think and learn and question and push and unearth and turnover and get past the bullshit and say, "What you're saying to me does not make sense," or, "Let's try it with the kids." So, we're doing a lot of that heavy lifting kind of learning.
Brett: We'll end with this. When you look at the future of education or the state of education right now, what gives you hope?
Lucy: The teachers give me hope. I don't look at the field of education with any sense of ... with anything but hope. I think for me that one of my great pleasures right now is my Facebook community. I have this Facebook page of some 30,000 people on reading and 30,000 on writing, and it is the most extraordinary community of generous, passionate smart educators who are so willing to help each other. It's that generosity among teachers and that eagerness to go to the ends of the earth to help kids. I see it every day. I am brimming with optimize because the field of education is full of teachers, and the teachers are just such a great treat to be a colleague among them.
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Lucy 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.