I envy “big picture people.” You know – the people with visions – huge, overarching goals – incredible dreams. This is because I’m a detail person. This isn’t to say I don’t have big hopes, but I have an incredibly difficult time visualizing a big idea going into play. If you, on the other hand, share your vision with me, I can execute it. And I can execute it well. Just call me the Queen of Lists. It doesn’t stop at lists – if you need timelines, schedules, plans, meals, decorations, etc – I’m your girl. Seriously. And while I say I envy “big picture people,” I still see value in being a “detail person.” It takes both kinds of thinkers on a team to make a vision reality.
With that being said, I have to remind myself that effective standards-based teaching is a marriage of the big picture and the details. Without the vision, the details are arbitrary. Without the details, the vision is unreachable. It is easy for me, the Queen of Lists, to get caught up in the actual standards. I know them all too well, as in I could probably recite any given standard to you in my sleep. And I feel, generally, very good about creating pacing guides (with the help of a phenomenal team, of course!) to ensure that I reach all of the goals set in the CCSS. My lessons have very solid instruction, student engagement, differentiation and assessment. My students make growth.
This is why, when the Hour of Code emails came around a few months ago, I skimmed them. I thought, “This sounds so fun! And I don’t have time for that.” This isn’t to say that my classroom isn’t fun. We do have fun. However, looking at the Hour of Code, I made the rash decision that this didn’t fit into the math and reading standards I’ve memorized. It’s embarrassing, but I’m being honest with you. I convinced myself that computer programming didn’t have a place in my 2nd grade classroom. With that the email was deleted. And I didn’t think about it again.
Fast forward to March. I was completely honored to be invited to the Teacher Practice Networks meeting hosted by the Gates Foundation. It was there that Hadi Partovi, the CEO of www.code.org, gave a presentation about the Hour of Code and the importance of giving students the opportunity to experience coding in schools. He discussed the problem solving and critical thinking skills students utilize when participating in the company’s coding curriculum (available for ALL grades!).
So I sat there, impressed by so much about this guy, thinking, “That’s what I need! I need my students to be better at problem solving.” Yes … that stuff I deleted was exactly what I needed! Teacher Fail! Hadi continued to talk about the percentage of unfilled technology jobs and the gap between students studying in the field currently and jobs opening. So I continued to think, “Wait, so the highest paying jobs in our country are not getting filled because we, as educators, aren’t providing students with exposure to the field to even know they might want to consider studying this in their higher education experience?” My epiphany hit. I’m incredible at teaching with CCSS as my guideline, yet I’m missing the vision.
According to the CCSS website, the Common Core State Standards “were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.” In Washington State, these standards have been adopted to ensure our students leave high school college and career ready.
College and career ready. So one of the highest paying careers with incredible opportunities for growth could possibly be overlooked by my kiddos because my students didn’t have exposure to it like the 100,000,000+ other students in the world that have participated in the Hour of Code have? What have I been thinking?
Of course I researched it right then and there while we took a short bathroom break. Yes! The Hour of Code fit what I need to provide for my students. Any opportunity for my students to be exposed to things which will open doors of college and career readiness is important for them to participate in. Furthermore, coding in general hits many of the problem solving standards listed in the CCSS. Vision and details – in one!
This epiphany wasn’t just about participating in the Hour of Code. It was about more than that. It was a reminder that there are things that happen in our classrooms, schools and communities that are not listed verbatim in the CCSS, but are important for our students learning. It was a reminder that different vehicles to reach success are not only available and important, but imperative. It was a reminder that CCSS is a big picture. It is the vision that our students will leave prepared to be contributing members of a high-functioning society. I owe my students every opportunity to get there.
Of course, time is limited. This is not to say that everything coming across our desks is worth our time. There are way more ideas and programs out there that ARE good than time we have to use them all. But students deserve a teacher that will assess and consider opportunities with a critical and professional eye. Of course, I guarantee that I will teach my students to “distinguish long and short vowels when reading regularly spelled one-syllable words” and “read and write numbers to 1000 using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form” to mastery! But my work won’t stop there.
My co-bloggers Tom and Nathan have made great points on Corelaborate before. Tom has said that CCSS is greatly about teaching kids to think. Nathan has said that the CCSS are not his curriculum, but merely his vehicle. It’s easy for us detail people to get stuck in wanting to check off each standard as we teach it and overlook the big picture of what the CCSS is all about. So thank you, Hadi, for the reminder to keep the two mindsets married.
How do you keep a balance between the vision and details of the CCSS?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.