Michael Bloomberg weighed in on the Common Core and all the hype surrounding it concerning its difficulty. (The quote from the title came from a radio show he was on recently—go here to read the short article about it.) He addressed the complaints many parents have about the Common Core being too hard for their children. He said, and I repeat, “It’s too hard for your kid, lady? Think about what they’re gonna do when they can’t get a job. That’s hard.”
That is a good, hard dose of reality. And I like it. Bloomberg goes on about how testing is a part of life and how we all need to get used to it because kids are always being ‘tested’ whether it’s in school or in life, and I can’t say that I agree with those quips, but my opinions on testing are for another post. This one is about how teachers and administrators should work within the Common Core in order to make it work for our kids. (A popular topic here at the Education Conversation.)
I have made it clear that I have a complicated relationship with the Common Core. It’s academically based, and I like that, but some of the standards are superfluous and need serious revision. I have also made clear that our jobs as teachers are not to complain about this new mandate, but to embrace it. When you think about it, what else can you do? You can quit teaching if you’d like, but I’m not going to do that. I get frustrated, of course, but I genuinely love teaching kids. Well that’s out. So, like so many other living things in this world, I will adapt to my surroundings and make them work for me (and my kids). That means making the Common Core work in my classroom. (It’s hard. I am a special educator and the CCSS don’t exactly ‘fit’ what my kids need.) But no more excuses. No more complaining.
First, Bloomberg is right. The hardships of high school are nothing compared to life outside of it. Our kids are going to face a lot of difficulties, and they need to be resilient both academically and otherwise. (I am referring to those soft skills that keep coming up lately. Keep on the lookout for Part 2.) When our students complain that school is too hard, we teachers get annoyed. “You have no idea what it’s like out in the real world,” we tell them. So how do we get them to stop complaining? Yell at them? Tell them they are weak and immature and will never appreciate their education until it’s too late? Tell them that they will never grow up to be anything? (And I have heard teachers say these things to students’ faces. Can’t say I agree or disagree, but I can say it makes my stomach turn a little to know young people are being bombarded with teacher negativity.) Sorry, all. There’s only one way to make the complaints stop—or at least decrease their frequency—and it’s you. Yes, you. (Well, caveat: it’s not always you, but it starts with you.) It’s your responsibility as the teacher to break down the standards (unpack them, if you will, let’s maintain the proper jargon) and determine what skills students need in order to master them. It’s your responsibility to teach them the academic skills they need to succeed. It’s your responsibility to build upon the skills you have already taught. It’s your responsibility to show them how you are teaching them so they can participate in their own education. It’s your responsibility. It’s your job. You’re the teacher. No more complaining about the CCSS because they are ‘hard’. Make these standards work for your kids!
Now…will this magically make the complaints disappear? No. But it’s a step in the right direction. You are showing them that learning, like any process, takes time and patience; that there is a foundation that needs to be laid and building blocks that need to be stacked on top. Show them. Help them. Work for them. They are your clients. Be on their side. And when you have done all that you can do, then you can tell them to suck it up and get working because nothing in life is easy. So, if you haven’t stopped your complaining and you haven’t put in the work necessary to make the CCSS effective, don’t expect your kids to stop complaining and suck it up either.