Last week I was eating lunch with a group of colleagues (something every teacher should be doing to stay sane) and one asked me, “Do you believe in Common Core?” I was so taken aback by the question, I didn’t think she was talking to me. Do I believe in Common Core? It was like asking me if I believed in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny.
There are a lot of arguments to be made in favor or against the Common Core State Standards, with many arguments being screamed at opposing side while no one listens. And I stand, firmly stating my support. I never said I was the sanest person.
From the day Common Core was rolled out to me, I have been a supporter. That’s not to say I haven’t cried, cursed, or become angry. And I know the arguments, valid or not. The standards can be hard. I am a parent and have watched my own children struggle. I know the complaints about Race to the Top. I know there are teachers who weren’t trained but just told, “Add more rigor.”
So, in a raging sea of arguments, why do I sail the Common Core colors?
For many years, what I taught and when I taught it was dictated to me. I was told what was best for my students, and when it was best. If I wasn’t on the same pace as Teacher A and Teacher B, I was told I wasn’t doing what was right for the students. “Fidelity” was the buzzword.
These last two years, I’ve been the one making those decisions.
I saw my students were weak in comparison, cause/effect, and struggling in their Civics classes. So I created two units using historical documents and the Bill of Rights. This allowed students to discuss the evolution of United States history and what equality means.
When it came time for testing, students analyzed their own strengths and weaknesses. They were taught how our state test was made and then asked to make their own.
Students went on virtual Field Trips and read (and debunked) local Urban Legends to better understand story elements, logical reasoning, and narrative writing.
I chose and wrote these lessons. I looked at the Common Core Standards, identified which standards my students needed to be taught. Next, I created what real world project they were going to complete and every step I would need to teach to get them there. This made me a better teacher.
I did it. Not a textbook. Not a computer. Not a program.
I can give statistics on how my students have done on state tests. But the thing that matters most to me? I enjoy my class. My students enjoy my class (well, until I assign homework).
I understand my students and can respond to their needs quicker than before. One size did not fit all.
It’s no longer a “Reading Class” but “Mrs. Craig’s class”. Common Core gave me that freedom.