I’d like to continue the ideas from my last post about the roll-out of the Common Core State Standards. Recent outcry makes my view even more unpopular–especially among teachers.
A colleague of mine, Liz Natale, recently wrote an essay lamenting CCSS and education reform that, rightfully, went viral. Her writing is heartfelt and brave and I admire her for sharing her passion.
My union also distributed this speech by Diane Ravitch. In it, she details the history of the CCSS, how they were developed in a sort of secrecy, and why they may not be the best solution for education reform. As usual, Ravitch is well informed and cogent in her statements.
I agree with Natale and Ravitch on many points. Do I love the NCLB-esque focus on testing? No. Do I love the new models for teacher evaluation? No. Do I love the breakneck pace of implementing the Common Core and it’s correlated assessments that districts face, the whirlwind that has teachers questioning whether to remain in the profession? No.
I wrote my own critique of how Connecticut planned tackle education reform a few years back. I still feel teachers aren’t given their due. The old saying that teaching is a 5-9 job is more of a truism than a witticism, and even more unrecorded work hours will slip on by as we rally to meet all the new demands placed on us.
But there’s still something that bothers me about rejecting CCSS wholesale. While many of my fellow teachers’ reactions range from frustration to righteous indignation to utter despair, I can’t help but notice the silver lining. I am actually excited by the Common Core, and I can’t wait to effectively incorporate it into the curricula of the classes I teach. And after even more reflection, I think I know why. Originally, I thought it was because of the focus on independent learning. Now I know it’s more than this.
It comes down to how teachers teach and how they view themselves as educators.
I have worked in public schools for eight years. I don’t consider myself a veteran. Perhaps I am less jaded because I’ve never known the “golden years” of teaching that so many of us look back upon fondly. I’ve always taught to a test. My performance has always been scrutinized. Maybe part of why I’m not upset is because I just don’t know any better.
I think the main part, however, is that I don’t think my role as educator is to inspire or enlighten. Those teachers that see themselves as beacons of hope are deluding themselves. There are many more powerful influences in kids’ lives–positive and negative–that we cannot overcome.
I don’t think my role as educator is to foster a love of my subject matter or my content in my students. It’s a fruitless endeavor and a selfish ideal. Our culture is largely anti-intellectual and does not highly value analysis or introspection. You cannot swim upstream forever. And who am I to tell my students how to act and what to think?
My main job, as educator, is not to impress my own ideas onto my students. My job is to arm my students.
If you’re an idealistic teacher, and you want what’s best for your students, don’t insist on deciding what’s best for your students. Forcing your favorite content upon them is arrogant and shows disdain for their own thoughts and opinions. Not only is it wrong to assume that your interests are important and should be universally accepted, but it’s insulting to assume kids can’t decide for themselves. Instead, teach them to think and reason. Give them valuable skills they can use in the real world. Get them ready for their college and careers. Trust them to evaluate their options and to chose what’s best for themselves. Trust them to be the change you want to see in the world.
The Common Core is unprecedented in its focus on skill-building, rather than mastery of content. I love the opportunity CCSS presents–a national set of guidelines on how to best empower our students to live the fulfilling lives that they decide. As stated above, I agree with critics of its inception and implementation. But why should we reject a set of tools we can use to better focus our teaching and to direct our students to success?
What do you think? Please share and comment below.