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What Part of the Mess Do I Own?
My work with teachers this past year with the Common Core standards has resulted in the same question that other teachers across the nation are asking. "What does Common Core look like in the classroom?"
As educators, we have relied far too much on other people teliing us what to do in our classrooms. Curriculum mapping ensures that key topics are covered and tells us when and where things need to happen in the year of learning. Assessments will measure certain skills or content knowledge on a particular day in the spring. These are all pieces of the educational climate right now, but if we truly want to know what the common core looks like, we need to pay attention to the students in front of us. We need to know who our students are, what their passions are, how to "hook them". There is no magic wand that can be waved. There is not a perfect textbook. If we want students to learn content for life, then we need to change the way we set up and conduct our classrooms. One teacher in New York had this to say when he was quoted in the New York times today,
“When someone says core standards are great because it offers a strong way for students to think, that may be true, but you need to make sure teachers are capable of doing that.” --Walter Rendon, a teacher at Public School 24 in Riverdale Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/nyc-students-face-tougher-state-exams-april-article-1.1220593
The truth is, as educators, the classroom we live in right now may be perfect climate for great learning to happen. But, if you as a teacher are feeling like you don't know where to start, I would suggest we all start with taking an inventory of sorts of our teaching style, our classroom managagment, our purpose for doing what we do. Great teaching requires us to take stock of our practices and reflect on the ones that are working and the ones that need to be thrown out. We cannot give what we do not have, so we need to admit that we own a part of the mess and make the decisions to increase our understanding of what thinking looks like. We need to develop or strengthen habits that make us as people bettter thinkers. We can no longer blame someone in government, in the district office or the school office down the hall for the lack of achievement in our students. We need to "put on" the habits that make us more productive and efficient teachers. We need to teach those habits to our students explicitly or through the way we do business in our classrooms. It is then and only then that we can begin to teach differently, in a way that will change the way students learn not just for today, but for life. Below is a link to the Habits of Mind Poster for your use as a checklist to get started. I spend alot of time in classrooms observing some great and not so great teaching. The difference in these two teachers are the dispositions they hold about themselves and their students. Persitence, accuracy, humor and questioning skills are a few of the things I see in those "great" teacher's classrooms. Transtiiton time is minimal and behavior problems are few. Students are engaged and not only learn content, but are surrounded by examples of good habits and are developing the habits themselves. There is more time for learning because students are talking to each other and solving real life problems as well as working on projects that mean something to them. If we want to know what common core looks like in the classroom, it is about the practices we have as teachers. What part of the mess do you own? What are you going to do about it?