Brace yourselves. I’m about to tell you something terrifying. Are you ready? The Common Core is not that horrible. It isn’t turning our kids into zombies. It isn’t harming them or forcing them to become automatons. Students may be walking that path, but that’s not their fault or the fault of the standards. It’s the fault of the people implementing them without truly understanding the needs of the population they teach. Yes, I said it. It’s not their fault. It’s our fault. And shame on us for using the standards as a scape goat for our lack of creativity, understanding and, dare I say it, hard work. Ouch. I know. I think I just got a chest pain considering I am one of those teachers who implements these standards (and struggles with them as well), but keep reading. It gets better, I promise.
Recently, the Huffington Post published an article by Randi Weingarten entitled “Will States Fail the Common Core?”. She explains that she supports the Common Core, but she understands that they are not a cure-all, and that we, the teachers in the trenches, and the administrators at the top, must execute them effectively in order to have them work for our kids. She goes on to discuss the strategies other states are using in order to roll out the Common Core initiative in a way that—brace yourselves again—benefits the students.
Here’s the thing with the Common Core, or any state or national educational mandate or initiative. It is not meant to be taken in its purest form. The Common Core Standards are guidelines for academic success. They are an outline that is influenced by the needs of the population in each district across America; and therefore, implemented differently depending on where the school is located and what the population needs. Teachers can still be creative and require their students to be so as well within the confines of the standards. It requires a shift in the way we have always done things, but that doesn’t mean we should resist the change. We have to adapt because the students, their learning, and their ability to become lifelong learners are our priority.
I cannot say that I agree with every standard in the Common Core. I think most of them are worthy to be taught, but some of them could use a change or even a trash. But, my job is to make sure that my students can achieve them. Am I still teaching them how to function in the world outside of the educational institution? YES! (See the blog prior to this: More Standards for Education?) Just because we have new standards doesn’t mean I sacrifice teaching my students other skills that are necessary for life after graduation. It means I adapt the way I do things. It takes more time up front, but in the end, I am their teacher. I owe it to them to make sure they receive a quality education. And if you’re not willing to put in the work every time a new mandate rears its (ugly?) head, then you need to find another profession. (Reality check?) This is the population that will be taking care of you some day. Don’t do them a disservice because your life is too busy or you are too stressed.
You’re a teacher for a reason. So use your professional knowledge to adapt the standards in a way you see fit for your students. Making education work is not about you. It’s about them. Don’t forget that. And don’t be scared of the Common Core, or any new mandate for that matter. Do what you know is right. Follow the fold when you must, but adapt. That way, every new initiative will never be scary again.