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Skill + Confidence = WIN!

amyw's picture

As a teacher in the nineties, the focus in our classrooms was self esteem.  Self esteem is important and I have done my fair share of helping others believe in themselves.  But like many initiatives, some things get lost in our pursuit of something else.  Lately, I've noticed something.  It seems that many of our young professionals have a whole lot more confidence than skill.  I am not saying that this group lacks skills, rather I am saying that often times the ego promises a lot more that what the skill can deliver.

With that in mind, I think about the future of  our schools and wonder if the Common Core Standard initiative might help us put into place practices that might aid us in giving our students the skills to succeed which will result in a "earned" confidence rather than a superficial one.

Whether one is for or against the Common Core (College and Career Readiness Standards in my state of Kansas), I believe the practice standards are key to what is  lacking in our world today.

For those who are not in education or those in education who are just getting started with these standards, I will offer a little background.  The Common Core Standards are actually two sets of standards.  The content standards and the practice standards.  The content standards have seen a few changes but basically remain the "what are we going to teach at each grade level" standards that most skilled teachers can quickly familiarize themselves with and implement in their classrooms easily.  The other set of the standards are the practice standards.  These standards are "the way we do business in our classroom" standards that if embraced by teachers will increase the skills that I mentioned are lacking in our young professionals today.

The practice standards provide a definition of what a student looks like when they possess the capacities of a literate individual as well as the mathematical capacities to apply to one's world.  These standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but rather offer a common goal of what skills students should possess when they leave our schools.

The Capacities of a Literate Individual include the following: demonstrate independence; build strong content knowledge; respond to varying demands of audience, task, purpose and discipline; comprehend and critique; value evidence; use technology strategically and capably; understand other perspectives and cultures.

Mathematical practices in the classroom include: make sense of problems and persevere in solving them; reason abstractly and quantitatively; construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others; model with mathematics; use appropriate tools strategically and capably; attend to precision; look for and make use of structure; and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

If we want to develop skill in our students, there are certain practices within our schools that we will need to intentionally decide to implement.  For example, if we want students who can use technology strategically and capably, then our teachers need to receive training and have the proper attitude to use technology strategically and capably.  We also must have enough technology in our schools so that students can embed it in their learning.  Schools should not be a visit to a past, but provide a connection to the present as well as the future.

Another example is constructing arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.  For this to happen in our classrooms, a teacher must intentionally design her lesson so that students learn the skills to attack multiple pieces of text and glean the most important information.  She must allow students time to talk with each other and form an opinion that is shared in the class.  She must also provide time for students to learn how to respectfully critique the thoughts of others and be able to back up ideas with evidence.This cannot be achieved by a fill in the blank, multiple choice activity!

The skills that come from this type of classroom, I suggest will bring about the "earned confidence" that students need to succeed.  Educators and parents that support will need to assess what is most important; to feel good or to be good.

It is in the journey that the lesson is learned.

For more information about Common Core Standards, check out

If you want more information about leading schools to better practices or other educational topics, contact me at






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