Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SOL #2: Teaching and Activism

This year I have noticed a troubling trend in my teaching that links up with a certain professional opportunity I became a part of. For years I have been hearing other teachers who I respect greatly rave about an ongoing literacy PLC hosted through our BOCES. They have talked about how transformative it is, and how much the discussions have led them to great teaching.

So, naturally I jumped on the opportunity to join this community when the latest group started. However, I quickly found that the focus of the group had changed. Instead of being a great collaborative environment where everyone was able to share best practices and have real discussions about great teaching, the group has become a training ground for what I am referring to as the "Common Core Army". 

It make sense naturally, the group facilitator is our regions' connection to the state. She understands the new demands, and willingly embraces them. She wants to train us to be leaders in our schools, and since this is (seemingly) the only thing that matters in schools right now, she wants us to be as skilled as she is. 

But I have my doubts. I doubt that the Common Core is the way for every student. I doubt that the Common Core will actually make a difference. I doubt that the modules developed through the Gates Foundation are not homogenizing teaching. I doubt that drinking the Common Core Kool-aid will help students learn or schools grow. I doubt that the link between CC and APPR will result in anything except the disillusion of free and public education. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I have my doubts. I am far from a good little soldier in the Common Core Army.

      I've tried to be compliant, and test the techniques from the group in my own classroom, and I am not pleased with the results. Most of the things I try leave my most competent students bored and my struggling students frustrated and anxious. When I come back from these meetings and start teaching "Under the influence of the Common Core" things stop feeling authentic. My teaching and my classroom lack the spark of creativity that has kept me teaching and constantly revising what I do.

This morning I went back and read an old post from Two Writing Teachers where Stacey was sharing some advice from Lucy Calkins about teaching as a form of activism. The idea that stuck out the most is this,

We need to be able to teach according to our beliefs. If our teaching doesn’t represent our best current notions about what matters in classrooms and in life, if our teaching doesn’t represent our most cherished hypothesis about education, then how can we hold ourselves responsible for and learn from the results of our teaching?   

For the rest of the month and the rest of the school year I am making a commitment to teach every day to my "most cherished hypotesis about education". 

For me, that means resigning from the Army of the Common Core, 
getting back to an authentic workshop classroom, 
and not signing up for year two with the BOCES community.


  1. Love Calkins, love workshop, and I really love your passion. I might be a member of the Common Core army though because I am really valuing the improved math standards (might be just for my state.)

    1. Mommy,

      I guess my real problem isn't with the standards themselves, but with the mandates that go into their implementation. I actually like the CC better than what we had for ELA as well.

  2. I loved how you connected activism with our personal beliefs. CCS might be great, but they are nothing without teachers who believe in what they are doing. Stay strong!