Thursday, June 6, 2013

Refections on Teaching the Common Core

I realize that the phrase Common Core State Standards brings about strong reactions for many people. Numerous blogs, tweets, and articles have been written about the pros and cons of these standards. In the meantime, teachers across Kentucky have been teaching using these standards for the past two years. I thought it was important to reflect on what I have learned these past two years and why I am a supporter of the Common Core State Standards.  

 The common core has created a universal language for teachers. This is powerful and has  generated opportunities for teachers to collaborate across districts and the nation.   When teachers meet at national and state conferences, our conversations center around helping our students master those standards and not the differences in our standards.  I rarely hear the refrain: "well that works for your state, but our state standards require _________". This universal language has begun to drive the professional development for teachers. Teachers are speaking up about what we need and speaking against the "one size fits all" PD sessions of the past. As a result, PD is becoming more individualized and relevant to what teachers need to teach the standards. 

The common core is encouraging thinking among our students. Students are asked to not only understand concepts, but also to think about those concepts in multiple ways. This is very important, especially for a generation that can find the answer to most any knowledge-based question with the tap of a finger. As a result, the products students are creating are stronger, more complicated than in previous years. The conversations we have in class are richer and less scripted and teacher-driven than ever before. Students are learning that there are multiple ways to answer a question.These skills will help our students as they leave our classrooms for the next stage in their lives. 
The common core is changing my teaching for the better. The skills in the common core are high level and require more from me as a teacher. At first, this was intimidating. I had taught successfully for ten years. Would I be asked to toss out everything and begin again?  The answer is no. I haven't tossed everything out. I have revised, and, in some cases, totally overhauled lessons in order to teach the common core. Contrary to some critics' opinions, I still use literature in my English classroom. I also use non-fiction, informational, print, and non-print texts. Along the way, I have added some new tools to my teaching kit.  The literacy design collaborative has been instrumental in helping my students bridge the skills in the common core. A week ago I attended a Paideia training and look forward to using seminars to help my students with the speaking and listening skills in the common core.

To me, the conversations with my colleagues, the changes in my students' learning, and the improvement of my teaching are what makes the common core so valuable and why I am glad my state has made a commitment to the common core.




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