Saturday, November 19, 2016

What will become of Common Core?

I haven't been inspired to write lately since the election.  I actually try to stay away from what is reported on the news and social media because I know that both sides tend to exaggerate and that only works to raise public hysteria.   I would rather wait and see what time will bring and go from there.  One issue I can't mentally escape from is our president elect's stance on education.   My principal just announced at our School Site Council meeting that Common Core will most likely be eliminated.  I don't all together trust or believe this insight because as I said, I like to wait to see what is hype and propaganda so as not to be swayed by it and thus react in a way that is not beneficial to my cause.  I also was told by a member of the school district's teacher preparation team that our boss would be changing my position title from "Common Core Demonstration Teacher" to "Demonstration Teacher".    This piece of news could be considered gossip since I did not hear it directly from my boss, but I assume since it is from a very good source, it is extremely possible that the title change is in the works at this very moment.  With all this talk and assumptions going on about education and Common Core, it is inevitable that I would reflect and possibly worry about the fate of the educational philosophy that I am Lovin.

Most everyone has an opinion on Common Core State Standards.   I feel as though my situation makes mine extremely valid and reliable.  I have been a teacher for over 20 years and have seen politics change the education landscape multiple times.   When I was a young teacher I trusted the powers that may be that ruled above me.  I did what they said, figuring that they were more educated than I was, more experienced than I was, and that everything they did were for the interests of the children and our futures.  I am definitely not naive anymore.  Everyone has an agenda, and usually the students, our future, are at the bottom of it.   New teachers, I'm sorry if this offends you or blows up your idealized idea of teaching, but as you age and gain experience, you inevitably open your eyes and see what is really happening behind the scenes of your classroom.  Twenty-five years have passed and I see a generation, a generation I tried to educate by blindly following the winds of educational change and policy who cannot think for themselves.

After all these years of teaching,  all these years of being told to either "only teach phonics" "only teach sight words" "only read from the script in your Teacher's Edition",   I have found a system of education that works.  A lot of people say that Common Core doesn't work for students.  I believe they say it because they don't understand it.    I believe that they don't understand it because they are not able to understand it.  Parents come to me upset because they can't help their children with their homework because they don't understand Common Core.  When they see it as a detriment, I see it as a positive move in the right direction.  My people, my fellow United States of Americans, are in the lower register of knowledge and intelligence when compared with the rest of the world.  If we are teaching our students something that their parents don't understand I say that is progress!

Four years ago when I began taking an interest in CCSS I struggled with its value.  I thought along with my peer teachers that this was just another wind of change and that if I didn't like it, it would not be a problem because like all educational policies, the government would replace it with "something better" before it was actually allowed to be enacted.   But as I began to review it, to read about it, I was surprised with myself.  I actually agreed with it.  For the first time in all my teaching career, I saw an educational policy that worked.   I began reading heavily about it.  I read books like 21st Century Skills by Bellanca and Brandt and anything by the author and education researcher  Dr. Robert Marzano.   I became fascinated by the idea of making education meaningful for the students.  I have always been the type of person that hated to waste her time, and with Common Core I saw that students' time was not being wasted either.  They were not being babysat anymore or taught only what mattered to get a good grade on the state test.  I saw that through Common Core there was a purpose for everything and that everything built on the previous lesson.   I became inspired by this revolutionary approach to education and I saw that if teachers could buy into it, that year after year, working together we could actually close the achievement gap, that mythological idea that most people wish for, but truly don't believe in. 

So I have researched Common Core philosophies, I have enacted them in my classroom, and I have seen huge success with my group of students.  I have become a Common Core Demonstration Teacher so that I could promote the Common Core ideology and show fellow teachers that it does work and that it is our dream come true!  I am a seed that is trying to sprout and spread the amazing news of Common Core.  But change takes time.  Teachers need time to digest this change.  After they digest it, they have to research it and apply it.  Administrators need to buy into it also.  They need to buy into it so much that they let their teachers leave the class to learn about it and observe others to see how it works.  Teachers need time and freedom to try these strategies.  They will fail, no doubt about it.  I have failed many lessons also, but you know what, I reflect and learn from my mistakes and become a better teacher for it.  My next lesson after the failure is league years better than the mediocrity I was teaching before Common Core.

Why am I writing this post?  Well, one to plead that the United States of America gives Common Core the time it deserves as a good, valid, well researched revolutionary educational philosophy that it can be.  Two, I hope that parents, teachers, and administrators can see its worth to continue to use and allow it to best reach our students and give it time to gain the momentum it needs to flourish and meet the needs of our developing and up and coming generation of diverse students.  Third, I want to get out of this writing funk that has gripped me since the election and made me second guess all the great work I am doing with Common Core.   I'm going to move on with my life and teach in the way I know best serves my students.  I will not be swayed by the winds of change anymore, and I hope you will do the same. 

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