Common Core: Rediscovering the Excitement of Teaching
I feel like, you know, I started out as a teacher with a lot of exciting ideas and pedagogy that I learned in college. And you get into the classroom and it's a different world and, you know, we got our reading curriculum, got our math curriculum and having to follow that. And so I'm really taking back sort of an excitement about making lessons that are really hands-on and exciting and really help the kids in a way that, you know, a textbook can't always do. That's been the thing that's been the most exciting.
School-wide support for Common Core
Teachers are really going to have to be willing to seek out additional support on their own and work with grade levels to support each other, you know, share things that you've created. But there's really going to need to be a lot of school-wide talk about these changes and how they're going to affect the students and grading and the curriculums that you have and how to get more resources. There are just so many details and logistics that need to be worked out. Teachers are really going to need to learn how to work together.
ELL teachers as leaders of Common Core
Hopefully they can be leaders in that. I know that's asking a lot of people who are already overwhelmed and have, you know, additional work that they're doing to support their ESL students, but I would hope that they would be sort of the experts in their school in that area in servicing those students. And they're really just such good teaching practices for everyone. I mean all kids could benefit with this. But I really hope that they'll be able to be leaders at their school. I know, you know, the people that are working on this project are really taking it back and taking an active role in their schools and helping with this transition.
Probably the most practical thing that we learned about when we first got here is she was really working with us about the finding the Lexile levels of books. It was really interesting. We found that a lot of books were very different than where we thought they would be. And so I mean we found out that like Diary of a Wimpy Kid is an eighth-grade reading level. That's crazy. You know, I would have never thought it would be so challenging. And so just sort of incorporating that into the class, making sure the books that we're reading really are challenging enough for the kids. That was something that was really practical. I was able to use right away in the classroom.
And just her expertise on teaching vocabulary. I'm having a hard time with it right now actually with my current class. They're really not getting the vocabulary like I would like to see. And so some of the strategies and things that she's talked about have been helpful.
Air Force Base
I actually teach fourth grade at the Air Force Base in Albuquerque. And it's a public school, but it's located on the Air Force Base. And I have primarily regular education with ESL students in my class. And we were downstairs, it's interesting that I actually have a lot of kids who aren't really bilingual. You know, their families speak one language and they speak English but so they're ESL even those they're not really learning English. So it's sort of an interesting population.
Working with military families
I think it is fortunate that since we're on an Air Force Base we sort of have the community and the support of the community and some resources that maybe students at a school that is not on a military base might not have. So we are fortunate that we have some community supports in place. But it is an additional challenge.
We have a really high turnover. You know, kids move every two years, you know, about because of how the military moves their families around. And it makes it really challenging for you to pick up, find out where, you know, they were at their previous school and pick up where they are now and deal with some of the emotional stuff of a parent who's overseas. That's really scary for kids. It comes down a lot to me for that personal relationship that you have with students. I feel like I'm still learning a lot about how to be a good educator.
But I really enjoy the relationship with the students and just having that trust and communication with a student is so important to helping them through a hard time like that. You know, they spend hours of their day in the school with me and that's really important to me.
The process of creating lesson plans
Thinking back on the process of developing our lessons, my first reaction is surprisingly a sense of optimism for the future. Although there are many ideas and concepts which have been important, having the opportunity to work with true professionals who so clearly care and give so much has helped me to revitalize my own flagging enthusiasm and teaching. In this time of standardization and mandated curricula, this has been a rare experience in creativity and the art of teaching.
However, this has truly been a process. I started with very limited knowledge about the new Common Core Standards we would be working with, and even an incomplete picture of the project I was taking on. Initially the meetings were very overwhelming and largely, I passively observed. I think that the combination of beginning the process late and the open nature of the project made it especially challenging.
With time, the project began to take shape in my mind, and our working team began to come together. While I began the process feeling behind, after several weeks of review and delving into the content it was amusing to find our group chomping at the bit to begin creating our lesson plans ahead of the timeline.
One of my own challenges during this process was the freedom we were given to create lessons. Often teacher are given a very scripted curriculum to follow, and while I have been given wonderful freedom during my teaching experiences, the possibilities we were given were so much larger.
Sharing collaboration with colleagues
I can't imagine how wonderful it would be to be able to do the kind of work our cadre is working on with my grade level or as a vertical articulation activity with other staff members at my school…I know I work with some wonderful people, and would love the opportunity to learn from them and share the ideas I find and use.