As a mentor teacher for teacher candidates from a local university, I have the great privilege of meeting with a group of energetic, compassionate, and dedicated interns regularly. I love this part of my job. New teachers have this energy that seems unmatched. There’s such an eagerness to take everything in and huge love for working with kids. The idea of paying for a graduate program that requires a university course load, alongside an often full-time internship, speaks to a special kind of person that is really dedicated to this profession.
This week I met with my group of teacher candidates for a check-in. In order to give advice specific to their coursework and program, I invited some first year teachers that graduated from the same program and happened to have been hired at our building. After all, who better to speak to one’s apprehensions then somebody who has been there themselves? While the questions were flying, ideas were being hurriedly written and advice was flowing, somebody said, “I wish I had a glossary of all these acronyms.” A minute or two went by where we ‘popcorned’ out those acronyms we either knew or used … IEPs, WAC Time, edTPA, ELA, LDC, etc. We kind of giggled about this and moved on.
The comment stuck with me all day. It was cute. It was silly. It was repetitive of what I’ve heard about educational acronyms before (and probably have said myself!). But – it was true. The specialized language of any field or topic is important to having understanding of the content. We know that. After all, we’re teachers. We know a whole lot about tiered vocabulary and domain-specific language. Yet we don’t always heed our own advice and ensure something like acronyms won’t stall our own group members.
The thing is that many, if not most, of educational professionals have enough background knowledge to ‘figure it out.’ Context and ongoing professional development ensures that acronyms aren’t going to hold up one’s ability to be an effective instructor. The teacher candidates I know will quickly ‘get it’ too. Sadly, there are people in the lives of our children that won’t understand exactly what the school day is all about without providing them some background knowledge. I started to connect this phenomenon to families and the Common Core.
Parents and families come to our buildings with such a range of what they know about Common Core. It’s unfair to not provide information about the transition to CCSS to parents, children’s number one supporters. After all, teachers, administrators and support staff have had lengthy professional development (or ‘PD,’ if you’re looking for another acronym). Students are versed in ‘I can,’ statements and are becoming quite articulate at explaining what they are learning. However, families deserve to be involved in the transition too.
There is a lot of information out there regarding CCSS. The opinions are varied. The ideas presented and materials available through online searches, social media posts and news reports can range from informed to incorrect. There are true stories about student and family experiences with CCSS. There are cute videos, funny jokes, and irate discussion boards. There are also helpful parent resources and platforms for learning content as an adult to help your child. For any busy adult, it is impossible to weed through it all and decide exactly what is important, accurate, and useful to assisting in the learning of your child.
Because teachers and families that partner for the best interest of children are effective, it is helpful to have families on the same page. I, like many teachers, send home newsletters and homework with current standards listed. I provide resources on my classroom webpage. And I send home notes and emails throughout the year about ways families can help their students at home to succeed academically.
There are some great materials out there that teachers can send home to families about what CCSS means for their children. I have found it helpful to let families know of the shift from EALRs to CCSS and what that entails. The most effective ways to do this are with short, factual pieces of information that provide resources to where more in-depth information can be found. It is great if the information is accurately translated to the home language of the families to ensure the informational is accessible.
Here are a few of my favorite resources to send to parents:
· National PTA’s ‘Parents’ Guide to Student Success’ is great because it breaks the information down by grade level.
· Scholastic’s ‘Common Core for Parents’ has articles about the shifts in each area intended for the family audience.
· Common Core Work’s ‘Three Minute Video’ gives a quick explanation of what CCSS is meant to do. It’s available in English and Spanish!
· My favorite one-pager can be found here about the 3 key ideas parents need to know about CCSS.
If we want students to be successful, we need families to understand what CCSS is, how instruction and expected outcomes might look different than when the parent was in school, and what specific standards their children are learning.
How do you connect with parents about the shift to CCSS, current standards being taught, or resources for home support?
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.