Monday, September 8, 2014

Truths From the Alabama Teacher of the Year: Truth #1- The Common Core is Not a Person

We've been in school almost a month in Alabama, and I am teaching and learning daily with an incredible group of fourth graders and a wise-beyond-her-years student teacher at Cherokee Bend Elementary. 
In addition to teaching every day, I've had the opportunity to participate in lots of summer and after school meetings, presentations, and committee meetings where "fixing schools and public education" is the main topic of conversation.  
In the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of hearing Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama's State Superintendent of Education, speak in several cities across the state on the future of public education in Alabama. 
I've celebrated and been inspired by our superintendent's vision for Alabama's children, but I've also been disturbed by the rumors and misinformation that gets spread so rapidly across our state, nation, and world. 

For weeks I had been wondering how to actually start this blog to document my journey as Alabama Teacher of the Year, and this afternoon, it hit me square in the face.
After reading comments attached to Dr. Bice's amazing speech last Thursday night at Carver High School in Birmingham, I knew what I must do: Write about what's TRUE in public education. It's time to stop the misinformation madness, so this blog will be my year long attempt (and invitation to all of you master teachers out there) to share what's true, what's right, and what's best for the children of our state, country, and world.

So this year's journey will document learning, thinking, and lots of reflecting after twenty years in the classroom on what I know is TRUE about our work with children.

Truth #1: The Common Core is Not A Person
(Based on the psycho-freak-out about the implementation of The Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards--AKA Common Core)

It cannot dumb-down your child's education.
It cannot destroy your child's self esteem.
It cannot make your child cry.
It cannot make your child stupid.
It cannot ignite homework fights.
It cannot give poor grades for not meeting the standards.
It cannot destroy your child's love for reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, or school. Period.

But a teacher can.

Good teachers, effective teachers, matter much more than particular curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or "proven programs" 
(Allington & Johnston, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1999; Duffy, 1997; Pressley, et al, 2001; Sanders, 1998; Taylor, Pearson, Clark & Walpole, 2000).

It's the teacher in the classroom that can make or break your child's life and learning, and we MUST start focusing on and investing in the people, the relationships, the personal and professional expertise in classrooms across our state and country. 

It’s teachers who can light that forever-learning fire in our students. It’s teachers who, when trusted, use their common sense and deep-rooted knowledge about children and best practice to make decisions that guide instruction and benefit all learners. It’s those teachers who know that the Common Core State Standards are a support and a living document, one that will grow and change over time.

Every good teacher knows that no amount of standards or new, shiny shrink-wrapped curriculum materials can ensure student engagement and success. Only the teacher can make that happen.

So instead of bashing the CCSS/ACCRS, and fighting about standards that are “failing your child”, I encourage everyone to put his/her energy into supporting our state’s efforts to hire and retain the best and brightest professionals.

Put your money and your mouth towards long-term, in-classroom mentor/teacher intern programs, collaborative, in-house university and school partnerships, ongoing staff development and reflection opportunities for both new and seasoned teachers, and government support of salaries that reflect the impact of a master teacher year after year on classrooms of students. 

And if you don’t believe me, visit the classroom of a master teacher. Our doors are always open. We welcome you to see the truth.

(By the way, if you haven't heard Dr. Bice speak and you care about our state's children and the future of public education, then make it a priority to go hear him speak on his Future of Public Education Tour!)
Ann Marie