As the Common Core Band Wagon Rolls By, I Stand and Wave

I wasn’t sure how to title today’s post.  I hope by the time anyone reads this, my post is well understand.

Recently we had another department meeting and I must say I enjoy our department meetings because we are always busy and engaged and trying to do what is best for the students that face us every day! One of the high school teachers was feeling the pressure of potentially not doing enough to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards. The word rigor came into focus (See my previous post on rigor -vs – vigor). As the conversation progressed,  I couldn’t help but wonder how many other teachers are feeling the way my colleague has been. Their thinking was perhaps if  they used another Shakespeare unit in addition to what they were already doing might make their class more demanding and students would be required to do more deeper thinking.  Note to anyone: Adding more, does not mean a class is more rigorous (My colleague wasn’t thinking this, I just wanted to throw that out there).

This also spurred the conversation about looking at different curriculum in general to use in the classroom.  Though we weren’t considering replacing what we are currently doing, we were discussing what other possibilities could be included to extend our current practices or what were valuable resources to aid us in our teaching.

I have done a lot more thinking since that meeting and my colleague had a great point about what they have observed.  The sad thing is, I have observed it too. We have both noticed this mad frantic race to implement Common Core and have heard teachers discussing how their schools have these curriculum teams to rewrite their entire curriculum and these huge meetings are taking place to change to the CCSS.   In addition, everyone is making this mad dash to find the best books that are available to help them implement the CCSS.

Well, as I stand here and wave at the bandwagon rolling past me with others on it, I will tell you I haven’t completely changed my curriculum or gone to some canned program that companies might be trying to sell to schools and teachers. When my school did switch to the Common Core, I got out my curriculum and went through it with the Common Core Standards right next to it.  I went through and looked at what standards I was already meeting with the existing units and lessons I was teaching. Now, was I missing some things?  Absolutely! I will admit, I had to do some overhauling in some areas and not so much in others.

What I didn’t do was scrap everything I was doing in my classroom and look for the easy way out by trying to find existing CCSS units.  The Common Core allows us to use what we already know and it also challenges to implement new ideas and technologies.  I strongly believe if teachers are trying to find the magic button for teaching the Common Core in their classroom, they are going to be really disappointed, because there isn’t a magic button to push.

So, if you feel you are one of those people who are completely lost and you hope there is going to be this miracle curriculum program that is going to come out for you to use in your classroom, I invite you to examine what you are currently doing in your classroom first before jumping on the band wagon.  If you do jump on, I will be waving to you as you roll past!

Cheers!


Writing Across the Curriculum with the Common Core

I don’t teach writing because I have to, I teach writing because it is a passion. It is a passion that was reignited in me after attending the Chippewa River Writing Project’s summer institute in 2010. Now, I can’t stop writing or talking about writing.  To a language arts teacher and someone who has that passion for writing, the Common Core Standards are great! Okay, so that is my opinion. I know others don’t share the same feeling. To be honest, the few that do like it, are on an island.  Nevertheless, the CCSS calls for there to be more writing across the curriculum.  In all reality, this idea should not come as any sort of surprise, but it in some arenas it is a game changer.  Our principal made sure writing was occurring across the spectrum this year.  Some teachers were already doing this, others had to be nudged on board.  With those that had to be nudged, I now have a clearer picture as to why they were essentially against this idea. Two factors are evident. 

First, the teachers who are against having their students write in their class are not quality writers.  I say this with all the respect in the world, but it is true.  For instance, you can not have confidence implementing more writing into your Science curriculum if you yourself are not comfortable writing or confident in showing students how a piece of writing should be set-up or written. I can comprehend this and it makes sense to me.  If I don’t know how to play golf correctly, I am not going to be comfortable or confident teaching someone how to do it.  As language arts teachers, perhaps it is our responsibility to mentor our colleagues instead of getting frustrated with them. Just a thought.

Although I take confidence into consideration, the second factor I have seen constantly and consistently is poor attitude.  In other words, poor attitudes by teachers.  Teachers who feel that writing belongs in the English classroom. An individual I once came into contact with every day, who was a teacher, told me writing was not their responsibility.  They didn’t take college courses to teach writing.  At the moment, when this conversation took place, I wanted to scream.  I’ll admit, at the time, I was sulking about the paper load I had and with good reason, but I probably shouldn’t have complained about it. However, one educator telling another educator it’s not their fault I chose to become a language arts teacher is rather unprofessional.  This type of attitude is only going to hurt our students when it comes to increasing rigor in their daily school lives, especially when the Common Core Standards call for this type of rigor as I mentioned in my last blog post.

As I head into the month of May I am having more conversations about making connections across the curriculum.  As a matter of fact, the math teacher and myself had a great conversation about the students writing a research report connected to the statistics unit that she will doing in class.  It won’t happen this year, but we will try to continue the conversation and definitely put something in place for next year. In addition, the language arts standards can easily work with the social studies state standards that we have.  The social studies teacher and I are going to be creating some cross curricular units where the students can write about a social studies topic and also read more authentic texts, such as the primary documents. 

Those teacher who do not teach language arts are no longer going to be able to hide in the corner and forget about implementing writing.  They will need to change their attitude, and be willing to accept the idea of writing in their classroom.

Cheers!