Common Core Conversations starts today as a way for educators to voice their opinions about the Common Core, whether positive or negative. As we all work to make the Common Core Standards practical, there will be many controversies. We believe that an honest conversation can bring difficulties to light and eventually smooth the transition. If you want to express your opinion or relate your experiences in a Common Core Conversation post, email darcy at darcypattison dot com. As here, your post can be anonymous, posting just your initials and your state.
Guest Post by S.D., from Arkansas
I have worked as an educator for the last 13 years–as both a teacher and an administrator. I am currently teaching in a 6-8 middle school as a 7th grade English teacher. Common Core has arrived at our door. The impact we feel from Common Core will depend on our district’s philosophy. I was fortunate enough to work in a decentralized school district, for a while. This district believed in hiring good people and then getting out of their way–allowing them to do what they are experts at doing. In districts of this kind, the impact of common core will not be extreme. The administration will expect the teachers to fit the new standards into what they are teaching, however they need to get it done.
Most districts, however, are not this enlightened. They are top-down, dictatorial-style management driven. They do not trust the individual teacher or even the collective teaching group. In districts such as this, common core implementation will be painful, arduous, and (perhaps) inefficient. The district I currently work for purchased the Common Core Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts “resource.” They want to tell us this is just a resource–not a curriculum; however, we are expected to follow its format.
My team was planning an elaborate cross-curricular unit on the Roman Empire for the end of this year to coordinate with social studies; however, the English and reading teachers were told we had to pilot Unit 3 of the Common Core Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts which happens to be focused on World War II literature, despite the fact that World War II won’t be taught in history till 8th grade. We had to switch gears at the last minute and pull together a three week unit to share with the other middle schools in the district. I was told on March 14th (two days before our Spring Break) that we had to have a unit sent to the district office by April 13th. Although the district had ordered some resources, none was available to us during this time. We slapped together units and turned them in. Gathering resources and curriculum planning is what teachers do best, right?
It could have been worse. At one point, the district curriculum personnel were planning to write all of the units themselves and hand them down to us. At least we had some input.
Next, we were to present our piloted unit at a gathering of all the other middle school teachers. Before this time, at some meeting of district personnel and department heads, our unit (which was presented in the Common Core Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts as the 3rd unit of the year in the 13th week of school), was switched to the first of the year. When I presented to all the 7th grade English and reading teachers in the district, I stated that I never planned this unit for the beginning of the year, and I did not believe it was appropriate for the beginning of the year. We all agreed and switched the unit back. Let’s see how that works out.
At this time, the district also demanded that we choose our common texts–texts that all 7th grade students would learn. This is a long-standing disagreement I have with the district anyway. In my opinion, we should be more concerned with common skills we are teaching the students–regardless of the text we are using. However, we do what we are told. I suggested to the group that we choose a common text that was very short–such as a poem or short story–for each unit so we could focus our remaining time on texts we decided on individually, or as a department, or as a building. This seemed to be agreeable to the teachers and so we chose short texts that we agreed all 7th graders would read.
Common Core implementation in my district will be a struggle as no one seems to have a clear direction in what they want. I know that the teachers will plug along and continue to uphold the high standards we have always had.