Friday, July 17, 2015

It's the Little Things

It’s ILA15 travel day!

This is a cause for rejoicing
Early this morning, round about 5am, Erin turned into the Logan Express parking garage and exclaimed, “This used to be a parking lot!  Look at this!”  Upon entering the terminal and taking in its modern seating and very large, interactive, touch-screen display, she marveled, “This is AWESOME!”  I enthusiastically agreed.  She then made a joke about the two of us gushing about the fineness of a bus terminal, laughed and said, “We don’t get out much.”

It got me thinking. 

There are many things that Erin and I share: taste in books, sense of humor, love for a certain beagle, two beautifully flawed children, and the romance novelist Sarah M. Beers.  But today we identified another similarity, one that Erin points out is likely to be a major contributor to the success of our partnership: our ability to become excited by everyday blessings.

I mean, yes, we know that the hotel will deliver toiletries should we happened to phone them at 10pm when they are discovered to be missing.  And yes, we know that there are many delicious breakfasts to be purchased in restaurants around the world.  But just *knowing* those things feels like a poor excuse for not celebrating them when they cross our path.  What’s wrong with a little rejoicing? 

I think one thing that sets The Crazy Reading Ladies apart from other folks – besides our bedazzled T-shirts - is our enthusiasm.  Yes, we are enthusiastic about reading, about teaching, about kids.  But we’re enthusiastic about other things as well – a beautiful sunrise, a quick trip to the airport, a second cup of coffee delivered by a smiling Southwest steward.  And while our passion may feel strong enough to fly a plane to St. Louis, it’s a rare thing in an adult.  We’re taught as children to temper our enthusiasm.  People are tolerant of children who ooh and ahh over the free snacks handed out on the airplane, but adults who do so are obnoxious. 

Room with a view! Sorta!
And I get it.  Mostly.  I mean, if I saw a grown woman standing with her nose pressed up against the terminal windows exclaiming, “It’s so big!” I’d first look for the hidden camera and then assume she had some sort of disability.  But what about an adult showing appropriate appreciation for the person who delivers a much needed coffee, or excitement at the sight of a landmark?  When did we all become so jaded that it’s not cool to marvel out loud at the adorableness of the tiny cut-glass salt and pepper shakers on the banquet table?

I think what upsets me more than seeing adults who have turned off their joy is seeing students who have.  When kids have instant access to all the knowledge in the world sitting in their pocket, they can be pretty darn hard to impress.  I fear that kids are losing their sense of wonder and excitement.  As teachers, we must remember this. 

We must try to see and experience things through the eyes of a child.  We need to not censor our positive emotional reactions.  We must react, and react big.  We must love out loud and model for our students how to be open to the world and how to appreciate its gifts.  If we show them the way, if we make our classrooms safe places, maybe we can awaken the sleeping passion inside our students. 

Today and every day of this St. Louis adventure, Erin and I promise to find the joy in the world around us.  We encourage you to do the same. We'll share with you some of the many things that make us smile.  We probably won't blog about all of them, but we'll tweet them, and we hope you'll share yours with us, too.  We are @allinreading.

And if you happen to be in St. Louis for ILA, please join us Sunday at 1pm room 232  for Building Intrinsic Motivation in Middle Level Readers.  Later that same day we'll be holding a fun-filled workshop from 3-5 in room 127: Putting the C in the CRL.  We're also hosting an author panel with Ellen Hopkins and Una LaMarche on Monday at 11am in room 124.  Hope you can stop by!

And, one last thing before we go:

Mary with her coffee-delivering savior
To Ray, kind-hearted Southwest steward who saw two bleary-eyed Crazy Reading Ladies and delivered a second cup of coffee just to be nice – thank you.  To Jim, always smiling manager of Renaissance Grand St. Louis, who helped when the cloud ate our hotel reservations - thank you.

You guys are AWESOME!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Share Possible

The sun has set and still we sit, basking in the wonder of Scholastic's extraordinary Reading Summit, and feeling positively overwhelmed in the best possible way.

Overwhelming. It was how our Assistant Principal chided us once upon a time; the wrist-slap we decided to own and wear as a badge of honor. Four years ago when she spoke those words, we took it as a compliment; in fact, we loved it so much that when it was time to give All In! its wings and form our very own educational non-profit, we named it in honor of our aha! moment: Overwhelming Success, Incorporated.

Overwhelming. It was the title of our inaugural post. For those of you who have just found our blog: Welcome Home.

Scholastic's Reading Summit served to attract the very best in literacy professionals, powerhouses of information and inspiration, and heart like you wouldn't believe. Being a teacher is not something you do, it's who you are. It's a calling, not a career. And in the last 24 hours, we were surrounded by hundreds of other people who just "get it."

Never before have we experienced such a sense of belonging. You are our people. You are our tribe.

Thank you.

To people like @MrSchuReads and @AuntieRez, who put open arms and smiling faces to Twitter handles for the very first time.

To Dr. Kim Parker, whose incredible essay laid the foundation of a road we will now travel. You have lit a fire.

To Andrea Davis Pinkney, whose presentation rendered us speechless. Your honesty, integrity, and limitless talent are breathtaking. Is it too early to ask how we could possibly get you to our school to be a Visiting Author?

To Alice Ozma, with whom we shared teaching anecdotes and delectable desserts, only to return to our hotel room, remember a certain CBS news piece and scream, "Oh my word, THAT'S HER!!!!!"

To Donalyn Miller, who allowed these fan girls the opportunity of a lifetime, as well as considerable wait time until we managed to speak coherent sentences in your presence. Thank you for striking the perfect balance between validation and inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to talk about books, and kids, and for honoring the duty we have to bring them together. Thank you for stopping by the elevator to wish a certain young man Good Night.

To Rebecca, educator extraordinaire and our long-lost triplet. Thank you for validating us. Thank you for conversation at dinner. And at breakfast. And in the hallway. And in the hotel room. And after the sessions. And in the lobby. Please continue to do what you do. The world needs more crazy reading ladies.

To all of the incredible people at Scholastic for spoiling us rotten and giving us the platform to share a little bit of our crazy. Thank you for bringing together some of the finest leaders in literacy in order to make the world better for our children. Let this be the first of many gatherings.

To Johnny Yotnakparian, Abby's uncle. It was our students who christened us, who gave us our identity as The Crazy Reading Ladies, and everything we do will always be about them. Thank you for honoring us with your gratitude and making us feel like royalty. We have the best jobs in the world. Thank you for "getting" us. And thank you for sharing our story.

To all of the Summit attendees, whose presence and passion made us feel right at home. This is our time. Remember that you are exactly what your students need. We know that you, too, live for the moment a child discovers the joy of reading. Do whatever it takes to get them there. Don't be afraid to love out loud, or on a blingy t-shirt.

For everyone else reading this, we know you're one of us.

Overwhelming. That was how our story started, and we look forward to sharing our journey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ILA15 Top Ten!

Top Ten Reasons the CRL are Pumped for #ILA15

10. New Crazy Reading Lady Shirts.  Get ready St. Louis, we're bringing enough to keep ourselves decent for three whole days!

9. Vacation Food. We've been on a sugar cleanse for the last week. (9 days, 7.5 hours, to be exact.  But who's counting?) Said sugar cleanse will include more flexible rules as soon as we cross state lines.  Translation: Mary will be ordering dessert first.  And last. 

8. Our peers.  Our peeps.  Our tribe!  Passionate educators whose enthusiasm and abandon are contagious. We love making connections to other professionals who can talk for hours about YA titles, cross-curricular connections, and Woodcock-Johnsons. (If you're laughing right now, you clearly don't assess literacy skills for a living. This is the name of a highly-regarded reading assessment. Get your head out of the gutter!) Nothing is more rejuvenating and satisfying than spending time with professionals who never accuse each other of having a "teacher voice."  (Hi, Mom!) Last year, while in line for coffee, we were treated to an impromptu characterization dance by a woman we had never met. It was one of the finest moments of our trip.

Does this outfit meet dress code?
7. Functioning technology!  We hope!  Keep your fingers crossed that we'll actually be able to show the presentations we've poured hours of blood, sweat, and tears into.  We're still a tad traumatized from last year's experience, during which our finely-crafted, labor-of-love presentation refused to be projected onto the big screen. This brought four tech guys to our session as the clock clicked down and participants arrived.  An hour later, there was still no reasonable explanation as to why our laptop had friend-zoned the projector. Throughout that hour, Mary's wallpaper pic of her boyfriend (Hi, Jim!) was projected for all to see while Erin rambled aimlessly, vamping to buy time. It was a hoot. In all seriousness, we ended up winging it.  We were able to get slides up when we had about 25 minutes left, but at that point they seemed superfluous.  We talked and told stories and laughed and were pretty dang proud of ourselves. The bright side is we know we can do this without a net, but dang! It'd sure be nice to have a net.  But hey, they invited us back this year - for a session AND a workshop - I guess we did okay.

6. Hotel toiletries! Last year, our New Orleans hotel boasted Erin's favorite Aveda shampoo and conditioner. Once word got out, visitors brought handfuls for her stash. You've got big shoes to fill, St. Louis. I mean that stuff is normally, like $30 a bottle! (We don't get out much.)

5.Ideas. The thought of filling our notebooks with "We're SO doing this" ideas, collected from brilliant speakers and inspiring sessions. Last year, we returned from ILA with grand plans for redesigning our library into a literary cafe. It only took a year of planning, but that vision will become reality this fall.  I'm sure our fearless Gandalf awaits our return - and plans to take over even more of the school - eagerly.  (Hi, Mr. Fortin!)

4. Authors and books. Lots and lots of books. We'll happily wait in line to get books autographed for our kiddos, or to tearfully thank an author for writing something that made *that* child love reading.

3. St. Louis.  Home of the arch!  And BBQ!  And...other stuff!  Okay, so it's not New Orleans, but it's not Franklin.  As long as we can visit the local coffee shop without stopping to talk to six or seven current or former students, it will feel like a vacation. 
The CRL found this waiting in N'Awlins.

2. Bus schedules. You'll thank us later.

Aaaand, most of all...

The number one reason we're pumped for #ILA15...

It's a chance to share our crazy!

Please join us at:

Session #00562 - Building Intrinsic Motivation in Middle Level Readers: Tips to Get 'Em Hooked and Keep 'Em Reading.
Sunday, 1pm, Room 232

Workshop #00634  - Putting the C in the CRL: Experience the Outright Craziness the Ladies Bring to Literary Adventures.
Sunday, 3pm, Room 127

Putting Books to Work with Ellen Hopkins and Una LaMarche
Monday, 11am, Room 124

Look out, ILA15!  The Crazy Reading Ladies are coming!