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!


Manners: Who’s job is it anyway?

This past Sunday, after being cooped up in the house with sick kids for two days, my wife and I decided to head to Target.  I wished I would have stayed home.  I am very appalled at the manners people have today.  What ever happened to the words “excuse me”?  Obviously it is too much to ask for in today’s world.  Four different times people cut my wife or myself off on their way to their destination within the store.  My wife actually had a lady cut in front of her in the check-out line and had absolutely no remorse for doing it.  In addition, my wife described a time where she was making a left hand turn and there was a lady turning right from the opposite direction and that lady was upset because my wife was the one that made the legal turn into the closest lane and the other woman driving wanted that lane. She flipped my wife off.  Alrighty then!

Without a doubt this is a huge issue.  My colleagues and I have to constantly redirect students to walk around adults talking in the hallway instead of going between them.  Or, if they have to walk between two adults they need to be polite and say excuse me.  We also see burping and farting in our classroom like it is no big deal.  One of my colleagues has had to kick out students numerous times for their inability to “hold it”.  We constantly see kids trying to talk over each other all the time and they interrupt each other.  The reaction by students when confronted is what gets me the most.  Students act like we are blowing things out of proportion when in reality we are trying to teach them manners and to become a better citizen.

The saying “It takes a community to raise a child” is true, no doubt.  However, the picture being painted for me is becoming clearer and clearer. That picture includes me being the one who teaches children manners.  As a teacher, I have different roles and I am fine with that.  On the other hand, where is the parents when it comes to manners?  I now see why my students act the way they do from time to time.  Manners need to be taught at home.  Using excuses doesn’t set well with me either.  In a recent conversation with a parent outside of my school district, they actually told me the reason their child is so rude and disrespectful is because their child is a stubborn redhead.  Really?  I am a redhead, I have always been a redhead and I have never disrespected my elders.  I knew enough to say, “excuse me” and “sorry to interrupt”.  My own children know enough to say excuse me and they know how to cover their mouths when they cough.

If I am going to be required to teach manners, can I please have some curriculum to follow?  I am not sure how other teachers or individuals feel, but dealing with manners has become a regular part of my daily routine at school.  It is discouraging to think generations are being raised without manners.  I can only believe this is going to lead to some very disheartening events down the road with these students are disrespectful in so many facets.


Public Education Versus Parochial Education

I hope all went well with everyone during Christmas. I know it was an incredible year for my family and myself. As with any family functions, there are always lots of topics being discussed around the plethora of food and drink that engulfs our homes.

A topic that arose from my family this past Christmas was parochial education. I have two nieces that attend catholic school, my wife still has a niece in catholic school, my mother-in-law was a principal at a parochial school for numerous years until her retirement, my sister-in-law teaches at a parochial school now, and to be very honest my wife and I are still discussing whether to have our children attend catholic school. Now, I am a teacher at a public school and am an advocate for public schools. Throughout the discussion, there were some very valid points brought up. My sister and brother-in-law don’t regret sending my nieces to parochial school. Standardized test scores are well above the public schools where my nieces live. Technology is used, though they only have computers once a week, which still proves to me the teacher is still the most important tool in the classroom. Where my sister-in-law teaches they have smart boards and a Mac lab for students.

Going back to the standardized test scores mentioned earlier, the teachers must be doing something right. In parochial schools religion is taught along side the normal state mandated curriculum. So, to me it seems the teachers do have a bit more on their plate curriculum wise compared to public school teachers. Okay, I can hear the grumbles now from public school teachers. I understand we have a lot to do too. I am not saying the teachers at parochial schools are better. I strongly believe there are exceptional teachers in schools everywhere. I think a big factor is the class size a parochial school teacher has compared to a regular public school. When you are working with 10-15 students compared to 20-30, that has a huge impact on more one on one time available for each student.

Besides curriculum, other issues were discussed. For example, the cost of attending parochial school and the hours a parent is asked to volunteer. To me, I feel parents are asked to volunteer no matter what school your child attends. In addition to cost, where is my child going to be safer? Are children bullied less at a parochial school? Do I need to worry about the problems the catholic church has had in the past with children? Some would say I am comparing apples to apples. I will leave that up for my readers to decide.

Realistically, in the few catholic schools I am comparing to public school, I am not sure what is better. I feel I am in a unique situation because I am not only a parent, but a public school teacher who needs to make a decision on where to send my child. At this point, I just want my children to have the best education possible. Next fall, my child is scheduled to attend a school where the teacher to student ratio is higher that 1:25. I am not sure that is the best place for my child.

These are just a few things to ponder, not a blog post to cause an uproar. Making the choice on where to send your child for a great education can be difficult and should never be decided quickly. The choice shouldn’t be made based on wanting your child to be a status symbol. An individual is not “better” than his classmate because he attended a parochial school. I know I will continue to research the topic and see what is best for my children.