A Speaker to Motivate


Our District, like so many others in this country, has an annual Professional Development Day. It usually starts off with a motivational speaker who will theoretically get us all revved up to get back to our classrooms.

Honestly, at this point in my long career, I feel as if I’ve been Professionally Developed to within an inch of my life. What motivates me most are the weeks where I just get to teach the kids, instead of sitting in a room full of other adults.

But guess what?

This year’s speaker really did Motivate Me.

His name is Lester Laminack, and he is a force to be reckoned with. He is a Professor of writing, a well respected author of children’s books and a teacher of teachers.  He talked to us about teaching writing.

Actually, he didn’t “talk”.  He marched up and down through the audience, getting in our faces, forcing us to pay attention.  He impersonated little kids, jumping up and down as they would, his lanky adult frame somehow perfectly mimicking a five year old. His thick Southern drawl and affected sarcasm made him impossible to ignore. He talked about passion.  He talked about inspiring passion in the kids.

“We are so busy raising standards that we forget we are supposed to be raising human beings.” He told us that we have to encourage kids to write what they know, to write what they love. He told us that “the topic doesn’t matter!”, that kids can write over and over again about one favorite topic and can still cover all of the mandated genres. He told us that “good writing takes time!”, that we need to help the kids to carefully craft their work.

Part of me wanted to stand up and cheer.  “Yes, yes, yes!” I wanted to scream. “That’s exactly the way I used to do it before I was handed the big box of Lucy Calkins lessons!”

Part of me wanted to put my head down and weep.  “Oh, my God”, I said to my colleague of many years. “He’s talking about the way we always taught writing before the damned Common Core hit us and we got the boxed lessons.”

My heart was hammering as he spun and jumped and shook his fist.  Was this the most demoralizing speech I’d ever heard, a condemnation of my teaching, now that I have begun to follow orders?  Or was it the most exciting and freeing speech I’d ever heard, giving me permission to go back to what I know is right?

I left the auditorium confused and upset.  Why was I being encouraged to do what the district won’t actually let me do?

I sat in a quiet spot, alone for a minute.  I thought about Lester, about what he had said to us.  And I realized something interesting.  He has spoken non-stop for 90 minutes.  He talked a lot about how children think, what they feel, what they need from us.  And not once, in all that time, did he ever use the word “rubric”.

I’m stepping away from the box.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. That should keep you going for awhile!

    Reply

  2. Posted by 2old2tch on January 19, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    “I left the auditorium confused and upset. Why was I being encouraged to do what the district won’t actually let me do?”

    Have you asked the district that yet?

    Reply

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