Teacher Reflections: Getting to Know the Common Core

In these video clips and journal entries, teachers from our Common Core in Albuquerque, NM project talk about what it was like to dive into the standards and share their tips for teachers who are just getting started with the Common Core.

Journal entries

Miriam Martinez: The promise of the Common Core State Standards

I was one of the people in the 90's that did not embrace the standards movement, not so much because I did not believe in them, but because I saw how they lost steam and we all went back to business as usual once we were done with the task of unpacking the standards.

This time around I'm hopeful. The promise of the standards this time around is that of true collaboration among colleagues. Collaboration to exchange best practices, share curriculum tenets, and engage in conversation about different teaching and learning styles. The promise of the standards this time around is that the scripted curriculums we have been subjected to will fall by the wayside. And lastly, the promise of the standards this time around is that of the creation of lesson sequences and units that are rich with culturally relevant content.

Loyola Garcia: Common Core and NCLB

I have been a teacher for 11 years. All of the time I have been teaching has been under the umbrella of No Child Left Behind. Because of No Child Left Behind and the pressures that come with it, education has become more and more scripted. Teachers are required to follow a program "with fidelity" which takes a lot of creativity away from them.

My initial reasoning behind joining the group was to allow myself opportunity to gain knowledge around the new standards. Teaching in a standards-based system is going to be very different than following a program, and in many ways this scares me. I always wonder if I am knowledgeable enough to develop lessons on my own based on standards. I also felt like I wanted to continue being able to use parts of what I am already doing everyday in my classroom and follow the pieces of the programs currently being implemented that are best for the students in my classroom.

I am hoping that being in a standards-based system does not mean completely changing everything that I am currently doing. My goal of meeting with this group was to have a chance to meet with other teachers and share best practice ideas. I am excited about working with other teachers of students learning English as a second language. There are so many more things that need to be considered when teaching English language learners in order to make sure they understand. It is always great to get ideas from other teachers.

Bernadette Vishaway: Creative freedom

I love that CCSS give the creative freedom back to teachers as professionals. However, I am concerned that some teachers will find this process very overwhelming. Also, some teachers have never taught this way. I have high hopes that CCSS will reignite the fire in teachers to teach and students to learn to their full potential!

I also am concerned about creating "scope and sequence" for the Common Core Standards, trying to create a one-stop CCSS plan where teachers will not have input into the process. It will once again become a list of things to do. I sure hope that is not the way that things go.

Ida Demos: A-ha moment

After having examined the Common Core Standards and served on the APS Steering Committee for the implementation of the CCSS, I found myself asking, "How attainable would the standards be to my own English language learners?" It wasn't until I started brainstorming and collaborating with the other teachers in the 8th grade ELA group of the WETA/ELL cohort did I realize the extent to which lessons would need to be sheltered and modified to meet the needs of our ELLs. That's when the fun began. The creative juices began to flow.

This a-ha moment has led to my investigation of other resources and strategies with which to enhance or supplant the existing curriculum. After having worked with the CCSS, I have also come to the conclusion that Depth of Knowledge plays a major role in students' acquisition of skills, concepts, and language. Students are given multiple opportunities to acquire, practice, perfect, synthesize and demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Lynne Harper: Teaching more deeply

Working on the Common Core Standards has made me a more intentional teacher in my own classroom. I find myself asking how can I teach this standard more deeply and not broadly. I have seen a shift from teaching a program to teaching a standard. That is my new "catch-phrase." Are we teaching to the program or to the standard? In science I see myself teaching to the standard but in social studies I have been teaching more to the textbook/program. I now feel free to revisit the standard and come up with resources to teach from and not rely on the program.

At the beginning of our getting started we were impatient to jump right in. It was good in a way that we went through the process of unlearning what we had learned. We were so program driven that we needed to be guided and have those conversations at the beginning.

When I started this project I wanted to learn more about the Common Core State Standards and how I as a teacher was expected to teach them in my classroom, what resources were available and how we as a nation were going to work together to ensure that our students were going to be prepared to compete in a global society.

Clara Gonzales-Espinoza: Reader response

To better understand the CCSS, I had to delve into how they organized reading skills into a kind of grid. It is a grid that offers a set of skills for readers of every age, and for both fiction and informational. As I read across the grades, I've noticed that the specific expectations for the skills grow.

I also notice what the standards value and devalue in reading comprehension — deeper comprehension and higher level thinking skills — but what skills in particular? By looking at what they give repeated attention to and what they leave out I can better judge what the standards value. For example these phases are repeated:

  • "demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text"
  • "refer to details and examples in a text"
  • "quote accurately from a text"
  • "compare and contrast"
  • "analyze."

These phrases are not in the Common Core: make text-to-self connections, access prior knowledge, explore personal response, and relate to your own life. In short, the Common Core deemphasizes reading as a personal act and emphasis textual analysis. In focusing on textual analysis as the primary means of comprehending and interpreting texts, I have realized the Common Core puts aside theories of reader response.

This is a major shift for me since Rosenblatt, who states quite explicitly that the meaning of texts resides in the interaction of the reader and the text, has influenced my work. If I have two readers reading Charlotte's Web they can't and won't see the same things in it because their own experiences partially shapes their interpretation. Even the same reader at different ages will see different things in the text.

My plan is to assess my student's current reading practices. I'm going to ask them to discuss a story and find out if they veer off into discussions of their own experiences. I know they will continue to need more support with academic, text-based responses.

Luke Phillips: The new standards and accessibility

When I first started working with the CCSS, I thought long and hard about how these were going to work in my classroom. In reading through them, I was still not clear about what they were expecting kids to be able to do. I quickly began to notice that there were no "benchmarks," an absence I thoroughly appreciated because I think they are the part of the current standards that are the most limiting.

After reading deeper into the standards with the cadre, I soon began to realize that the CCSS were even broader than I had hoped. It felt to me, a teacher who loves to use essential questions in my classroom, that these standards were a more effective way of getting students to actually listen, think, and participate in the classroom culture. They seemed to be aiming at the target, instead of aiming only at the bull's eye, and by this I mean, they seem more accessible to all students. The old standards seem to simply set a goal that most students, who, once they reach the goal, can stop learning and stagnate. In contrast, the CCSS seems to allow students the opportunity to continually grow and then set a new goal once they reach one. The CCSS allows for perpetual academic growth.

Then, we began our lesson planning. I found that the academic openness that the CCSS gave students was indeed larger than I had previously thought. We were challenged to break down the walls that 12 years of textbook driven instruction had built up around our teaching styles. This took weeks of hard re-thinking. But we were finally able to create a lesson that we were proud of and seemed to embrace the openness of the CCSS.

Video Clips: Getting to Know the Standards

Getting to Know the Standards


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