Recently I was asked to comment in writing on the Common Core State Standards and if they can change
students’ lives. Here is my response:
Can we, as educators, really make a difference in a child’s life? Can we influence a community and potentially even the entire globe? I believe we can, and we must! And I am hopeful that the Common Core State Standards as well as 21st century learning skills and practices are some of the vehicles to get us there. These standards address the types of attributes, qualities and content that are needed now as we prepare students to work in a highly competitive, digital, and inquiry based world.
As a current middle school principal, a former English teacher, District trainer, reading specialist and literacy coach, I have seen miracles every day in the classrooms in which I’ve taught, observed, and the ones I now support. I’ve seen teachers touch lives, move hearts, develop student’s capacity, curiosity and creativity. I’ve seen it and we must see it. We must live it. Education is a mission, not just a job, and we must live up to the mission on the noblest level. Our student’s lives depend on it and our world is counting on it.
The Common Core standards came upon California educators seemingly overnight. Reeling from the recession and terrible budget cuts, as well as the restrictive climate generated by No Child Left Behind, teachers tentatively familiarized themselves with the standards last year. At Comstock, it felt like we were coming out from under a rock. The idea of teaching novels again as well as creatively preparing lessons was like fresh air for the veteran teachers, and largely unfamiliar to teachers who began their careers during the
past five years. But they collaborated and the unraveling began. Pacing guides were revamped, novels were dusted off and new titles were purchased. Science and Social Studies teachers joined our English department’s collaborative meetings. Math teachers started working on the Standards for Mathematical Practices and going deeper into what it means to study math and how math is applied in everyday life.
We are also beginning to incorporate 21st century skills and attributes into our development. We have embraced the 4 Cs of Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking. We added two more,
taking the lead from our state assembly: Civic Literacy and Content. And, we added one more for our school: Compassion. We grouped students and discussed our 7 Cs with them. Then we asked them to share what it meant to them and express them both verbally and visually in posters. These posters now decorate classroom and hallway walls. (See above) As a community, we are moving forward together. We are looking at all we do from each of these 7 lenses. It has caused us to change our practices and placed us uncomfortably outside our zone of proximal development. We are now changing our views and our lives as
educators and are preparing our students to face the challenges ahead.
This year California gets a break from standardized testing. My site is not sitting idle. We are upgrading our
curriculum, adding technology, and collaborating on lessons. Many teachers are stepping up as leaders. One teacher is now Google certified and is leading professional development in Google Apps. Another is becoming our Arts Integration specialist. Our physical education teachers are incorporating common core lessons that relate to the four core subject areas. All of this excitement and creativity from the adults on campus is deeply affecting our students. We are celebrating our creativity and so we are inspiring our students’ creativity. In the spirit of inter-connectedness, we are using ourselves as models to inspire our students to stretch as we are doing. Common Core is enabling us to teach in more engaging, student-centered ways. Our students are loving learning because our teachers are loving teaching!
Teachers are now going deeper to study their own instructional practices. We are working in groups to ask ourselves the following questions:
· How do we elevate instruction?
· What is rigor?
· How do we engage students in meaningful ways?
· How do we define mastery and provide evidence.
We are beginning to answer these questions in ways unique to us. We see that for every teacher,
the formula will be personal and we are honoring this. I hope to share the answers to these questions with you in future blogs.
Thanks for listening.