I found out that one of my mentor teachers has passed away. At the age of 53, it’s not fair that such an intelligent mind and driven spirit is no longer with us. Even though I only knew her a short time and only in the context of education workshops, I feel sort of empty inside this week because of all the learning others will miss in the future with her not around. I met her at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project summer institute in 2008. Here’s what Kathleen Tolan taught me:
- Testing is a genre. Teaching to the test is not acceptable, but helping students to realize that sometimes school reading is a different kind of reading, for a different purpose, and that students can pass a test if they know some key pieces of information.
- You must have a passion for what you do. Lucy Calkins once told a group, “Passion is powerful.” Kathleen had a passion for teaching and learning. She wanted everyone to do their best always. She was stubborn about it! She put forth great effort in her work, and expected the same from others. When I applied to become a staff developer at TCRWP, she wrote me a long letter about the aspects of the job I was not qualified for. I appreciated her honesty, and my reading workshop teaching is now better because of her advice.
- Children are the future. She held students on a pedestal. Children can learn to become intelligent thinkers and take part in the world. Allow children to be their best, and even you can learn from them.
Thank you for your time, Kathleen. We will miss your determined drive and work in the world of education.
picture credit: www.heinemann.com