Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Common Core Musings

I spent today at a workshop on the ELA Common Core Standards. Here's what I can say (bluntly) about my experience: I don't think I can do this. Now let me clarify what I mean. Do I have the skills? Sure I do. I know how to teach my students reading strategies for different types of texts. I know how to teach my kids to do research. I know how to teach my kids to make connections to text. In that respect, I CAN do this. Here's what I am afraid I CAN'T do: manage it all. I learned that I am going to have to use multiple texts at once. On the surface, this isn't a problem. But it is going to take a lot of time and legwork on my part to find supplemental texts to go with, say Fahrenheit 451. I need to determine what kinds of related texts to use, what genres, and find ways and time for them to read all these texts, re-read the texts, discuss them, and write about them. The readings need to be close readings. The discussions need to be meaningful with responses that refer back to the text, so I need to make sure I am asking higher-order questions to get higher-order responses. I need to make sure the kids are reading texts that are of sufficient complexity, which probably means different texts at different complexity levels based on the data I have about my kids' reading levels. I need to make sure the kids write about the texts as well, and they need to know how to incorporate evidence from the texts into their writing and document it/cite it appropriately. I also need to make sure they know how to research and find reliable sources for themselves and use information from those texts to demonstrate their understanding. Good news: I do all of this already; bad news: I do it TO AN EXTENT! What is being asked of me to do for my junior high kids is like what I do but on steroids. It is overwhelming. Do I think it is important for students to be able to do all the things mentioned above? My goodness, of course I do! But my fear is how do I get it all in????? Where is my time to find and read multiple texts going to come from? How do I get around copyright issues that are surely going to spring up? How do I find the time to create and structure meaningful, deep, close reading and writing activities? Where do I find the time to make sure my students understand how to give deep, meaningful responses in speaking and writing? Here's something else to ponder: today, we only discussed the literature standards! I've got two more days of stuff to learn! Where will the time for all of this come from -- time for me to prepare, time for me to teach, time for kids to learn, time for kids to do? Add to the mix that the kids HAVE to learn how to do this right for fear they don't perform well on the standardized tests. You can't chastise me for being overly concerned about their performance on high-stakes tests. After all, I am going to be EVALUATED for my effectiveness as an educator based on how well these kids do on those high-stakes tests. I HAVE to care if they learn it and can perform! More than anything, I want to be a good teacher. I love education so much. But this is the first time in over twenty years of teaching I am saying, "I don't think I can do this."

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