With any major change, conflict follows closely behind. One of the main arguments to arise during our shift into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is one that is quite valid. Will the CCSS, and its seemingly “one-size fits all,” attitude limit creativity in teaching and learning?
I get it. People (teachers) are worried that strict, nation-wide standards will leave them no room to teach how they’ve always been teaching. It’s human nature to do what feels comfortable, and at the end of the day, we teachers are simply human (albeit with super-human qualities- who else do you know who can drink two ventis before 11:00 AM despite having only a single 10 minute window in which to use the bathroom?). It’s true that the standards are strict, but I’m realizing that this is to our benefit.
I devoted a lot of thought to this topic, as I read a post from Freedom Works that highlighted what they called, “The 10 Reasons to Oppose Common Core,” I zeroed in on reason number three. It says that, “Common Core is Bad for Teachers: Teachers would have little control over their classrooms under Common Core. They will be forced to comply with standards decided upon by federal bureaucrat. This leaves little to no room for teachers to innovate to meet the unique needs of their students.”
Unique needs of students? Isn’t that the truth!? I like to think of standards as finish lines and those finish lines are the same for each and every runner in the race. It doesn’t matter if you run a 7 minute mile, or walk a 17 minute mile, the finish line doesn’t change. The same goes for the 6th grade math and ELA standards that I have been poring over for the last year. Very clear finish line, and as their coach, it’s my job to get my group of racers (the occasional sprinter, my majority of brisk joggers, and yes, a few walkers) across that line. How can it be done?!
The CCSS can seem “one-size fits all,” as all students are expected to cross the same finish line. However, we have to keep in mind that the standards say whatstudents need to learn, not necessarily howwe must teach them. We still have complete freedom in our classrooms with regards to teaching style and resources used. In my experience, it’s that freedom to teach creatively that helps get each and every student across that finish line.
So educators, be creative. We have a wealth of tools and resources available; you just have to know where to look. My favorite way to differentiate and teach creatively is to integrate technology. Specifically, I like to use technology to provide options for my students regarding how they demonstrate their knowledge and thinking. Do you need your students to show that they understand the idea of sequence in a storyline? Check out Read, Write, Think’s Comic Creator. Are you struggling to get some of your students to produce enough writing to really get a feel for their skills? I have had great success with student blogs!
At the end of the day, we have one of the toughest jobs around. The new standards definitely add a lot of pressure, and in result stress, on top of everything as well. Our best chance is to recognize the benefits that come along with the CCSS. I know exactly what my students should know, and I find comfort in the fact that I am sending them off to their futures on what will hopefully be a more even playing field (or race-track if you will). Use the clear finish line as an asset, and your awesome (and creative!) teaching skills to get them there.