The BIG News: I Founded A New Organization!

17 Jul

Thanks to all of you for making the launch day of the “Big News” feel so amazing.

As many of you now know, yesterday I publicly announced the new organization that I founded and direct. We’re called The Educator Collaborative.

The Educator Collaborative New Logo-01


We are a think tank and consulting organization working to innovate the ways educators learn together.

Our motto:

Collaboration Creates Opportunity.


This has really been a hands-on, labor of love for me.  You can read more about this at my Welcome message I posted yesterday.

Our Consultants are my dream team. I nervously asked each one and I was delighted when they said yes. Each is an amazing educator in his/her own right and we are even stronger together. The Educator Collaborative is happy to arrange their, or my, consulting services or speaking engagements with your school or organization.

We have two online homes that I built from scratch (picture me in front of the computer screen for hours learning how to use website plugins and code), I hope you love them as much as I do.

The first is our main professional site.  Here you’ll get to know us, our services – both in person and online, sign-up for our mailing list, and when our online offerings open up you can access registration here as well.

new logo slide educator collaborative-01

The second, sister site, is our exciting new social and networking website for teachers.  Called The Educator Collaborative Community, it is a place to collaborate with teachers from across the world on education topics. Within one day of launching our membership on that site is already nearing 100 and continues to rise.  People are posting questions, sharing answers, and forming discussion groups.

We intend to go beyond a typical online forum… innovation is what we do after all… Part of vision is to help educators use online tools for collaboration in newer, more personal ways.  In this instance, we are launching soon a monthly series where we will take some of the most popular topics, groups, and people from the Community and bring them to a broadcast collaboration space.  Sometimes it will be through a live broadcast hangout, sometimes through a virtual conference call, or other ways we hope to discover.  We will take the hottest topics and bring our experts, experts from the field, and some of you on to discuss them live.

It is our free gift to the education community.

long-The Educator Collaborative Community Logo

Naturally, you can find us on twitter (I mean, it’s me you’re talking about): @TheEdCollab and you can use the hashtag #TheEdCollab.  We’d love to have you follow.

I am so touched by the positive responses over the last 24 hours. I know there are many places you go to learn, connect, and share, and we hope The Educator Collaborative will be one of those places for you.

Thanks for all you do for our profession, for your colleagues, and for your students.

Here’s to great things ahead!


I Have BIG News to Share (tomorrow!)

15 Jul bulb logo-01

I am so excited. Excited, nervous, energized, and just waiting to see what you think.

 July 16, 11AM EST

Right here:

Is this a teaser, yes? Are you sufficiently teased? I hope so. ;-) 

I’m grateful for this education community we all share and I can’t wait to share the big, big, BIG news!


P.S. It’s really big.


And now for something completely different.


I Have BIG News to Share (in 2 days)

14 Jul

I am so excited. Excited, nervous, energized, and just waiting to see what you think.

 July 16, 11AM EST

Right here:

Is this a teaser, yes? Are you sufficiently teased? I hope so. ;-) 

I’m grateful for this education community we all share and I can’t wait to share the big, big, BIG news!


P.S. It’s really big.


And now for something completely different.

(note this video is probably PG-13 for a very few instances of language)


I Have BIG News to Share (in 3 days)

13 Jul

I am so excited. Excited, nervous, energized, and just waiting to see what you think.

 July 16, 11AM EST

(1pm was a typo. Sorry.)

Right here:

Is this a teaser, yes? Are you sufficiently teased? I hope so. ;-) 

I’m grateful for this education community we all share and I can’t wait to share the big, big, BIG news!


P.S. It’s really big.


And now for something completely different.



I Have BIG News to Share (in 4 days)

12 Jul

I am so excited. Excited, nervous, energized, and just waiting to see what you think.

 July 16, 11AM EST

(1pm was a typo!)

Right here:

Is this a teaser, yes? Are you sufficiently teased? I hope so. ;-) 

I’m grateful for this education community we all share and I can’t wait to share the big, big, BIG news!


P.S. It’s really big.


And now for something completely different.



I Have BIG News to Share (in 5 days)

11 Jul

I am so excited. Excited, nervous, energized, and just waiting to see what you think.

 July 16, 1PM EST

Right here:

Is this a teaser, yes? Are you sufficiently teased? I hope so. ;-) 

I’m grateful for this education community we all share and I can’t wait to share the big, big, BIG news!


P.S. It’s really big.


And now for something completely different.



I Have BIG News to Share

10 Jul

I am so excited. Excited, nervous, energized, and just waiting to see what you think.

 July 16, 1PM EST

Right here:


Is this a teaser, yes? Are you sufficiently teased? I hope so. ;-) 

I’m grateful for this education community we all share and I can’t wait to share the big, big, BIG news!


P.S. It’s really big.


With Thanks to Walter Dean Myers

2 Jul

I can remember a time, barely more than a decade ago, where the Young Adult market was full of only books about dead dogs from the 1970s. Or the best my students could read of urban life was trying to understand 1960s jargon in The Outsiders… drive-ins were nowhere in site in the Bronx, you see.

That was until Walter Dean Myers.

Scorpions, Slam!, and Monster became required reading. Not because I required them, because my students couldn’t help but pass them around. Walter Dean Myers sat, at least as far as I can tell, at the cusp of what, thankfully, has become an explosion of thoughtful, well written, deeply introspective, Young Adult writing that is aimed at real kids, with real feelings, and respects their real humanity.

One of my favorite’s is Somewhere in the Darkness. Myers’ book about a son reuniting with his recently-out-of-prison father and the cross-country trip they take together. It’s human, dark, and heart wrenching.

I actually teared up at the news of Walter Dean Myers’ passing. Not only for the loss the literary world must now face, but at the enormity of his gift to children and classrooms. I also feel personally indebted. His work has helped me be a better teacher.

I recall, when I was teaching high school, sitting down next to a tough-as-nails ninth grade girl who wore her attitude as armor over the embarrassment I know she felt for having such a poor academic record. She had written only the little bit, about three paragraphs of what was supposed to be a short story.  She hrumphed next to me as I reread some of the lines and the first thing that popped into my mind was: “Do you know who you write dialogue like? Walter Dean Myers. He has that way of making people sound so real. People spend their lives studying how to write dialogue well, how to make movie scripts sound realistic and novels authentic. The dialogue you wrote here sounds much the same way. It’s real people, really talking. You aren’t hiding them, you aren’t faking them, you are writing as if they are in this room.” We ended that conference and she spent the rest of the period writing without lifting her head.

It’s one of my fondest memories from the classroom, and, as with many of my memories, Walter Dean Myers’ work played a starring role.

While the Young Adult industry has a long way to go to realize a breadth of fully inclusive characters, plots, and authors, our classrooms are still much closer to reflecting a multitude of lives and experiences than ever before. Walter Dean Myers has been a cornerstone of this new world. A prolific author. A quiet visionary.

With condolences to his family, friends, and readers — and overwhelming gratitude.


When There’s No White Horse: Being our Best Advocates

25 Jun

A few days ago several people forwarded a blog post to me titled “An Obituary for Close Reading.” They sent it along not because they thought talk of the death of close reading would worry me (life will go on), but because there are some less than glowing comments made about Kate and my book in both that post and a follow up one.

Some close friends felt badly for me, some others wondered if I should respond, still others said to brush it off.  I’ve had my share of good and bad reviews for all sorts of stuff, so it’s nothing new.

I did feel compelled to write a post today because, bruises aside, I actually agree with the author.

Well, okay, I’m human I don’t completely agree. I, like all parents, think my babies are the sweetest, brightest, most beautiful ones on the block.

I more specifically agree with the conceit that we need to be careful of buzz words and advocate for our own learning and practice.

To go a step farther, I think advocating needs to go well beyond shunning buzz words. Once something has become edubabble it is almost too late.

We, as a profession, need to advocate earlier and often for the policies that come our way. We need to shape the decisions that are made in our districts. We need to be active with our administrators. We need to offer our professional expertise so by the time something gets to the babble stage, it’s actually worth babbling about.

That was our hope with our tongue-in-cheek titled, Falling in Love With Close Reading, that we could restore best practices to a term which, at the time, was buzzing with nonsense.


We Can’t Wait for Advocates, We Need to BE Advocates

In their book Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan argue that while the teaching profession can hold onto hope that an advocate in government or the public will arrive, we must instead become our own best advocates right now.

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The reality is, when questionable things intended to “help education” trickle down to us — either from the federal, state, or district level — they are questionable to us now because they truly were questionable when they were decided.  Or more accurately, they were questioned during the process of decision making.

I was watching a documentary on the Cold War recently and I was struck by one meeting in particular.  Russian ships were on their way to Cuba and no one in the US military was certain why. Could they be carrying missiles? Were they empty and only coming to posture? Around the table, most of Kennedy’s advisors were pushing for a preemptive attack against Russia. Striking first, before the ships arrived, could scare them away. There was much debate, a lot of uncertainty, and for whatever reason Kennedy continued to say no, we should wait. Wait to see what they do first. No one knew the “right” move, it was all discussion, it was all conversation.

History revealed that choosing to wait was the right choice. Of course it could have not been.

Watching that documentary, I was so struck by my naiveté regarding history. For me, it always seemed so linear: pilgrims came, then colonies, then the Revolutionary War, and so on. Seeing the people, hearing their perspectives, I was shaken to realize (and embarrassed this had not clicked for me until now) that every decision that has been made and will continue to be is, quite literally, a room full of people talking about possibilities.

The same holds true for decisions that come our way in education. Though textbooks can seem to rain from the sky and standards are zapped into being through bolts of lightening, those initiatives were made by people and their best guesses.

So first, it’s important to realize that in all cases, decisions are drawn from experience and information (or lack thereof). When your district says “this textbook will help our students succeed.” You can be certain that no one who made that decision is 100% sure of that statement.

Which is where we, as professionals, come in. Before edubabble ever gets to the point of edubabble, we can advocate in small and big ways. We can help bring our expertise, experience, and knowledge to the table.

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Small Steps to Advocate

There are small step ways to advocate for our students, our work, and the right improvements to education:

  • Take back edubabble: In some cases the babble may come with a good intentions that may have become muddle in practice or the telephone line of implementation. If what you are hearing doesn’t match what you know to be best practices, change the word or revise the definition.
  • Don’t malign district decisions, get in there are help to make them: Decisions that are made are almost always made to help kids. It is just that often people making those decisions do not read research and work with kids enough to really know what works best. You are the expertise they need. Volunteer for curriculum review committees (even if they don’t exist yet, volunteer yourself!).
  • Connect with other passionate educators: Around your district and across the world there are people as engaged, active, and inspiring as you. Find them. Start a book club or lesson planning circle in your community, join a twitter chat, or sign-up for a summer course.

Dorothy Barnhouse‘s introduction to her new book, Readers Front and Center, is a master class in advocating. Written with passion and practicality, she helps us to rethink some of the edubabble in the Common Core reading standards and the constellation of “aligned” (and often not) initiatives. One highlight is the way she reframes the “Text Complexity Triangle” that every CCSS states’ educators have seen one-thousand-and-one-times (see my tweet for the visual, color added). That graphic, stunning in it’s simplicity, is a whole new way to talk about the same work described in the standards. I can picture school board members having those concentric circles in their hands and school leadership teams posting it on the wall of their meeting room, all saying “did we start with students with this decision?” and consulting the image again.


Big Steps to Advocate

The big step ways involve supporting our colleagues in having the vision, passion, and guts to bring classroom experience to leadership and policy levels:

  • More career educators need to move into policy and government roles: school boards, local, state and federal governments
  • More career educators need to move into school leadership roles: administration and central offices
  • More career educators need to move into research and teacher training roles: higher education, authors, consultants
  • More career educators need to remain in the classroom and also become more politically and socially active: writing, voting, speaking

A piece of this is reflecting on our own careers. Have you ever entertained the thought of an education life beyond your classroom or school building? You do not need to have one, but it’s a question worth considering. Your gifts may be able to impact many students and educators in more positive and purposeful ways then we are often experiencing now.

A larger key is being inspiration for others, for our fellow educators. When I began as a teacher I assumed I would always be in the classroom, I loved my students and found the job both impossibly difficult and incredibly fulfilling. It was a high school literacy coach who said, “maybe you should consider coaching. I think you’d be good at it.” It was my first step out of full time classroom teaching. The rest is history.  You can help shape the future of our profession by inviting a talented colleague to dream: “I think your passion and voice could help a lot of teachers and kids, have you ever thought of applying to policy program? We need more educators out there.”


We Are Our Profession

You are already an advocate. Every day you walk into your school, every child you believe in, every family you connect with, you are advocating.

We need your voice and talents even more. There are many improvements ahead for our profession, if you are not a part of making them then someone else will.

Your voice matters.

Thanks for all you do.


#FILWCloseReading is in its 4th Printing!

11 Jun

Kate Roberts and I are so grateful for all of our readers. Falling in Love with Close Reading is in its fourth printing!

Falling in Love With Close Reading cover


Related Resources

We love learning with all of you and from all of you.  Here are a few ways to connect, study, and share:

  • Kate and I will be leading another 3-session webinar in October on Close Reading, click the image below to be taken to the registration page:

Falling in love w close reading october webinar

  • We wrote a study guide for Falling in Love With Close Reading which you can find here.
  • Join others on twitter using #FILWCloseReading
  • Heinemann designed this beautiful graphic (click to be taken to the main page to download a larger copy for yourself):


  • (And word on the street says we just may be coming to a few cities this next school year… we’ll keep you posted….!)

Thanks for all you do.

Guest Post: EdWeek Classroom Q&A – Ways to Develop a Culture of Success in Schools

9 Jun

Larry Ferlazzo gathers questions from educators and then collects both invited responses from experts in our field and comments from readers. It’s a brilliant form of collaboration through his EdWeek “Classroom Q&A” column.

This week, a teacher asked, “How do you create a school culture or even classroom culture in which students strive for success and are expected to strive for success?” My response, along with Jeffrey Benson’s and Barbara Blackburn’s appear in Part One. Now it’s your turn, Larry invites you to leave your own tips or comments at his post, some will be published in the future.

image linked from Classroom Q&A, EdWeek

Thanks for all you do.

My interview at Two Writing Teachers

19 May

I’m excited to share my interview at Two Writing Teachers: “An Interview with Educator and Author Chris Lehman.”

I was interviewed by TWTs’ Beth Moore, my friend, former colleague at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and TWT regular contributor.

We talked my passion-ish for writing and reading, tips for helping reluctant student writers, standards, heroes and so much more.  It was a blast to do and I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed having it!

Here’s the post. Thanks #TWTblog!


Looking forward to #IRA14 this weekend!

8 May

I’m so excited for International Reading Association’s 59th Annual Conference this weekend in New Orleans!

My Events

On Saturday at 4:45pm I’ll be talking Close Reading with Kate Roberts and Mary Ehrenworth (woo-hoo!). Session 1974, Convention Center Room 353.

Earlier that day, Kate Roberts and I will be signing books at the Heinemann Booth. Exhibit Hall, Saturday, 1:30. (Added bonus: Meenoo Rami will be there as well, signing her new book Thrive!)


Looking Forward To

  • Pre-conference twitter chat tonight! I’m guest-hosting #IRAchat at 8pm EST, 7pm CST: More info here.
  • Being back in New Orleans (and the food!)
  • The energy of hundreds of educators all learning, laughing, and sharing together.
  • What will surely be another fun conference twitter stream: #IRA14
  • And the start of my mile long list of sessions I can make it to if I duplicate myself:
    • Jeff Kinney General Session
    • Richard Allington FS01, Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap, Sat 11-12
    • Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris, 01557: Student Learning Networks: Building Digital Learning Communities that Ignite Powerful Learning, Sat 11-12
    • Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, 02214: When the Text is Tough
    • Frank Serafini, Sylvia Pantaleo, Suzette Youngs 1445: Reading Picture Books Closely: Developing Strategies for Comprehending Multimodal Texts, Sat 11-1
    • Donalyn Miller, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle 1863: Building Reading Lives that Last, Sat 11-1
    • Tim Rasinski et al, FS13: The Art of Enging Your School Year Literacy Strong


    • oh my… this is only up until 1PM and I already have too many options…


IRA Program Online

IRA 59th Annual Conference App


On iTunes:


Hope to see you there!  If you do, come say hi!

#TeacherPoets – THANK YOU!

7 May


Hi TeacherPoets.

Thank you from the very bottoms of my feet up through the top of my head for joining in this fun four weeks of reading, writing, and rejuvenating.  Selfishly, you gave me an excuse to write poetry for a whole month, to laugh, be moved to near tears, and in general marvel at what an amazing community of educators we have.

A huge thanks to our live on-air poets:

Betsy, Michelle, Laurie, Markette, Audra, Crista, and Margaret (and from afar, Jason, who needed to attend to family).  Your generosity of time, risk taking, and collaboration means so much. Plus, you’re pretty great writers to boot!

And a tip of the hat to my friends at Booksource who are donating books of poetry to this great group of educators in thanks to them for giving up Saturday mornings to write together. Booksource has also put together these lists of poetry books (Elementary, Middle, and High School) to support you in filling your classrooms with poetry.

Thanks as well to all of you who have joined our online Community Page or tweeted live, along with us, each week. Your energy and contributions were felt for miles, they certainly reached me.


Watch Old Episodes Anytime

The magic of the internet means all four episodes of the live series are available, in a full Youtube playlist, for viewing anytime (up to nearly 600 views!).

It’s a Poetry DVR:



Recap of Week 4: Concrete the Concept

For our last week we moved from little to big. Instead of aiming to simply retell an experience or explain a feeling, we talked about really taking on an intellectual project – giving ourselves our own writing assignment to attempt to put to paper a larger concept.  Through this we also talked about the essential need in revision to “let go” of a first draft and pick up a whole new one.

Mentor poems:

  •  A Hymn to Childhood by Lee Young-Li – please click the little play button on this link and listen to Lee Young-Li describe his “preoccupation” before he reads his poem.
  • r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r by e.e. cummings – think of the project he has given himself and imagine the decisions he had to make.
  • Last Night I Saw the City Breathing by Andrew Fusek – step into his shoes and consider what goals he may have had as he wrote.

We then workshopped original poems from our final two TeacherPoets, Laurie and Audra.


Thanks again for these fun four weeks.  And thanks for all you do for children and for one another.



Join me 5/8 guest-hosting #IRAchat: Gear Up to #IRA14

6 May

I am excited to guest host the International Reading Association‘s twitter chat #IRAchat, this Thursday, May 8, at 8pm EST (7 pm CST).

We are gearing up for the 59th Annual IRA Conference this weekend in New Orleans!  I love the city, the conference and most of all connecting with educators from around the world.

IRA officers and other friends will join our chat–and I hope you will as well. The chat is open to anyone, whether you are attending the conference, following from afar, a New Orleans travel buff, or just have a passion for education.


Let’s Chat

If you are new to twitter chats, you can check out my post So You Think You Want to Tweet Chat: From Lurker to Chatter 101.

If you are like me, you find these huge conferences exciting and totally overwhelming! We’re hoping in this one hour chat you will grab some attendance tips, travel spots to check out while in town, and start your list of sessions to attend.

Thursday will follow a Q1, A1 format and I will break it into main sections:

  • Attending Tips (both sharing and asking for ideas about the conference and New Orleans),
  • Social Media (sharing tips on using it during the conference and who to follow),
  • and Sessions! (sharing topics and promoting your own sessions).

Here’s the link to draft questions. Please tweet me with any other question suggestions.


See you online!




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