I have never done an institute on three consecutive Saturdays. In 25 years working with and at the Reading and Writing Project, I have never done a learning structure like this. Indeed it is challenging to get up on a Saturday morning after a whole week of work and get ready again for another day of work. However, as each face pops into a Zoom rectangle, I feel my energy for teaching and learning bubble up.
People sip coffee or tea or juice or water from big teacher mugs. The mugs themselves are as cheerful as the people, maybe more so sometimes. MVT- Most Valuable Teacher and I Teach. What’s Your Superpower? The mugs that lift and fall across the screen of 30 learners, were probably gifted to these teachers by students and their caregivers. The mugs symbolize the love of teachers that also gets me up on this weekend morning. It is a Saturday and people cling to their mugs with hopes that they can open up to learning like flowers do when they are watered in the morning sun.
In between our Saturday institute days, teachers took what they learned and tried it out with students and colleagues. In this institute, we are working to teach into and keep an eye on spelling development. In some ways this is an ideal learning structure. Instead of being in a super intense 3 day in a row institute that sometimes can leave people feeling full to overflowing with learning, this once a week 3 day course gives teachers time to digest and try and come back to learn more and to refine their understanding.
Teachers also come back with that they learned and they gather together and teach into our collective knowledge so that all of us are growing together. Each Saturday feels smarter than the Saturday before. This institute was also so interesting because it was so intimate. 50 people total, it felt like more of us could really interact. I come again and again to the idea that we are craving connection- all of us.
Teachers in a pandemic pushing themselves to keep their learning lives going even when everything about their professional and personal lives are different and hard in so many ways. No one talks about this when they talk about how teachers just need to go back to school. Just to clarify, they have been in school the whole time. Every day. Making it up. With no training. With generosity and creativity and grace. Teachers have shown up. Including three Saturdays in a row in March.