If you are a regular reader of our Continuing Education Blog, you might remember one of my spring posts about whether or not you would encourage someone to become a teacher. I wrote that blog primarily based on an article from the Huffington Post that made the rounds in educational circles: A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher. Although I understand the writer’s perspective, the title and its directive disgust me, even now. I know disgust is a strong word but if blogs aren’t an outlet for revealing personal perspectives, what are they.
We are just wrapping up the last of 140 summer courses and my immediate thoughts are not on creating more courses, yet, I can’t help myself. One of the topics I heard requested multiple times this summer was a new course about how to teach with Common Core. I have heard teachers afraid of it and afraid for their jobs because of it. I have heard others want to understand it before making a decision one way or another. And, I’ve heard administrators want us (Trinity) to create a course how to encompass all aspects of it so their teachers will learn it from us at a collegiate level and they won’t be the bad guy.
I think Common Core is here to stay, so it’s just a matter of time before we will create a course tackling some aspect of it, but I was put off to hear a very sharp point of view denouncing it in a Wall Street Journal article, Why Great Teachers Are Fleeing the Profession, by Rafe Esquith (author of Real Talk for Real Teachers and Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire). Mr. Esquith likened the Common Core to the “newest bogus strategy to help Johnny read. The trouble is, it means teachers have to stop thinking.” That’s right out of a horror movie for me. And I know that’s what he was going for. Is it truly dire enough to run all of the great teachers away from the profession?
I will lose some readers with this, but I understand the need for some standardization. However, as a former English teacher with a master’s in creative writing, I start to get heartburn when I think of teachers being forced to teach a topic only one way, presumably the only right way. It’s very difficult to measure subjective work the same as it is difficult to measure the value of adjusting a lesson to better suit the needs of the audience. All public speakers are told to tailor what they are saying to their audience. I learned this when I had to take public speaking in college to become a teacher. With that same train of thought, I will never believe that it isn’t important to assess the individual needs, strengths and weaknesses, of your students and to understand how you can best reach that population, thereby, properly doing justice to a subject.
One award winning principal from New York, Carol Burris, heralded the virtues of the Common Core and even co-authored a book on how to help teachers/schools meet Common Core goals. She later wrote in the Washington Post, ‘I was naïve about Common Core.’ The principal shared many examples but one that struck a nerve with me was about one of the English teachers in Burris’ school who brought her an example of her daughter’s 3rd grade reading test with a poorly rated score. Burris was surprised that she was already being given tests focused on Common Core and turned over the quiz to find the name Pearson, a prominent educational materials and test prep company. Her response: “I am troubled that a company that has a multi-million dollar contract to create tests for the state should also be able to profit from producing test prep materials. I am even more deeply troubled that this wonderful little girl, whom I have known since she was born, is being subject to this distortion of what her primary education should be.” Coincidence?
I don’t know enough about Common Core, so help me understand your perspective, whether you are a teacher, school administrator or a parent. Is Common Core the answer to all that ails America’s schools? Are you learning it out of fear to know how to deliver it without understanding why? Or do you see some value in the curriculum that the above article hid from me? Can creativity stay alive within the Common Core or will truly creative teachers have to sneak the creativity into their lessons? Tell me your point of view and whether the topic is worthy enough for us to create a course. If you have a great resource for me to learn an unbiased, uncomplicated perspective of the Common Core, please share that with me.