The Other Side of the Velvet Rope

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By Jennifer Cleary

Building Expertise 2018. My third Building Expertise conference. I have three sessions to deliver this year. Two of them cover content from the book Classroom Techniques for Creating Conditions for Rigorous Instruction, authored by myself, Terry A. Morgan, and DR. ROBERT MARZANO!

Let’s go back a few years. Well, a few more than a few—back to where it all started. As a brand new teacher, in a not-so-brand-new classroom, I had 22 kindergarteners staring at me, waiting for me to make the first move. To make a long story short, I was terrified, they knew it, and I almost ran frightened more than once that first year.

But I made it. I taught kindergarten and third grade for many years, and eventually extended my career to the Elementary Curriculum Department of my district. During that time, much of our work focused on scales, learning targets, and instructional strategies. One name came up more often than any other—DR. ROBERT MARZANO.

“No one really calls him Bob, do they?”

Fast forward a few more years. I attended a conference in a small town in Wisconsin. There were so many amazing researchers, authors, and speakers in one place, and who were they all talking about? Yep. You guessed it. DR. ROBERT MARZANO.

In one session I attended, the gentleman sharing his research must have even been friends with him. How did I know? He didn’t call him Dr. Robert Marzano. He called him… wait for it… Bob!

I turned to my coworker and said, “No one really calls him Bob, do they?” In another session, I soaked up information from a woman who had actually written a book with Dr. Marzano! “Now how on earth does someone get to do that?” I asked myself.

I returned home invigorated, wanting to do more

I read everything I could from the top researchers in education, including, you guessed it… DR. ROBERT MARZANO. A few months after that conference, I found Instructional Empowerment (IE) and I took a giant leap of faith.

On September 10, 2015, I sat down at my new desk for the first time. Five months later, I thought I had hit my professional high when I was invited to present at Building Expertise 2016. Do you know who was going to be there? DR. ROBERT MARZANO!

I presented at that conference, and afterward, they had a book signing. There I stood, just outside the velvet rope, and guess who stood just inside the velvet rope… DR. ROBERT MARZANO!

My feet were stuck to the ground and I suddenly realized I couldn’t speak. As if standing there staring wasn’t embarrassing enough, I heard one of my colleagues say to him, “Bob. Jenn wants to have her picture taken with you but she’s too star-struck to ask.”

There it was, that name again. Bob! I quickly jumped into the camera frame, smiled for the picture, and texted my former coworker. I don’t think I even said one word to DR. ROBERT MARZANO!

The other side of the velvet rope

Now, Building Expertise 2018 is quickly approaching. I’ve had so many valuable experiences, so many groundbreaking moments, and learned so much since my first encounter with Dr. Robert Marzano. It feels like a lifetime and just yesterday all at once.

At this year’s conference, we’ll share the research and techniques from our new book,Classroom Techniques for Creating Conditions for Rigorous Instruction. This conference is always an invigorating experience, and I hope to see you there. This year, I’ll be on the other side of that velvet rope, standing right next to DR. ROBERT MARZANO, or should I say, “Bob!”