Each new year brings new challenges. In education, one of the new challenges is the Common Core State Standards. The standards and its underlying principles-developing students who are self motivated, critical thinkers who clearly articulate their opinion and evidence to support their opinion, seek knowledge, value diverse perspectives, uses knowledge of pragmatics to adjust purposes for reading, writing, listening and speaking, and who can work collaboratively to solve problems-are valued by educators. However, The Common Core State Standards are viewed as an overwhelming document, even though there are less standards than what we were working with previously. The Common Core State Standards are overwhelming for several reasons. It is written in language that we understand, however we are struggling with common understanding. Lack of common understanding leads to insecurities about how to prepare students who are college and career ready. The standards require the use of skills and strategies that we use automatically, but we are not aware of when, how or why we use the skills and strategies. We are also struggle with how to implement student centered learning rather than teacher centered learning. In addition, we are worried about students being assessed based on the Common Core State Standards when we are not sure how to implement the standards. These reasons (in addition to others) are the reasons for educators being overwhelmed and unsure of what’s to come. It is a time of uncertainty and confusion.
Teachers and administrators alike are actively seeking knowledge and understanding of the standards as they prepare for full implementation. In my opinion, the challenge with the Common Core State Standards is that it requires shifts in beliefs about teaching and learning. This is easier said than done since our beliefs are the core of our being as educators. Our beliefs are what informs our practice. When we are faced with situations, events, and or behaviors that rebuke our beliefs we go into survival mode-fight or flight. Many of us are in fight or flight mode as we quickly approach full implementation of the Common Core. Unfortunately, in this situation, fight or flight will not help us survive.
Once when I was confronted with a overwhelming challenge and I was in fight or flight mode, a friend and colleague gave me this advise, “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.” This advise helped me put the overwhelming task into perspective. I used the following plan to tackle the task. First, I set an achievable goal and a timeframe for accomplishing the goal. An example of this is instead of trying to digest the entire English Language Arts Common Core Standards, select one of the strands at your grade level to read and understand. Create or look for lessons that reflect the strand. Track your progress towards understanding the strand and identifying lessons. Tracking your progress helps you keep your work intentional and focused. Share your thinking with others. Engage in conversation with your colleagues about your understanding. You can also engage in conversation with other educators through social media like Twitter. This will help you refine your thinking and also engage your colleagues in thinking deeply about the standards. Invite colleagues to observe a lesson you want to try out. Through collaboration everyone benefits. Finally, celebrate your work. The accomplishment of any goal should be celebrated. The celebration can be personal to you but the biggest celebration will be the look of achievement on your students faces.
This is just one way to begin the Common Core journey. What are some ways you are working towards implementation of the Common Core?