Sunday, October 19, 2014


I have finally admitted that I have a love/hate relationship with Common Core.  I was indifferent for a long time.  I figured it was just a new set of standards--ones that were supposed to make a little more sense when compared to the old California state standards.  It would be something new to teach--a challenge, if you will.  And I like new challenges--within reason.

Inherently, the concept of a set of nationwide standards is logical and a step in the right direction.  It never made sense to me that politicians and the media compared the test results of tests that were not the same.  Honestly, I don't even like it when test scores are compared of schools that are not similar.  Having taught in a school with at-risk students for so many years, I have a definite opinion that poverty is the biggest obstacle to learning--and it is an obstacle that affects generations.    I like the fact that the standards "establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach." (  And I love that teachers from all over the country can share ideas that are specific to their grade levels.  The varied ideas and perspectives can only help make my teaching stronger.

However, there are three things I hate.  The first thing is that there are not enough examples and materials.  I have spent the past week grappling with "Use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements."  Figuring out what it meant took some research, and then figuring out how far to go with it is a major problem.  Do I have to teach the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive elements, for example?  I don't know.  That ambiguity is frustrating.  So very frustrating.  I will figure it out...and as I teach it, I will figure out what I need to improve upon.  But finding the time to figure all of this out is exhausting--and I am sure that I am not the only teacher feeling this way.

Another difficult thing is when someone tells you "that is not common core."  I think we are all stumbling around in the dark trying to find our way and it is going to take years to get our bearings (yes, years!)  A colleague was recently told by a teacher on assignment that there should be no more worksheets in the classroom, and she would know because she has been to many more trainings and so she has a greater understanding of it.  Mind you, they had just finished creating a multiple-choice assessment using a "one-stop system" that the district has purchased.  Balance...teaching is a delicate balance that uses a variety of resources and techniques to help students reach an deep understanding of the myriad of concepts that they are expected to learn.  

I am also upset that my students are going to have major holes and gaps in their learning.  That was predictable, but it doesn't feel good.  So I try to plug them here and there, but it reminds me of some of those impossible Cutthroat Kitchen tasks (like making a cake in a colander.)  When the end of the year rolls around, you want to feel good about sending them on, not worried.

I know that my frustration will pass.  I remember feeling like this before when the old standards were introduced.  And, in time, I figured it out.  That is something that we always need in education--just more time.

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