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I swore to myself that I would never start a sentence off this way, but I am. Being in education for 21 years…. I can’t continue. I worked with a colleague that began just that way. Hearing the phrase “Being a social scientist for 35 years…” gave us the clue that a five-minute pontification was about to commence with really no end point. So I will just get on with my message.
I have experienced a plethora of school and district initiatives since I began in 1990. I am sure this is just a partial list:
4-MAT Lesson Design
Reading Across the Curriculum
Writing Across the Curriculum
Quality Classroom Assessment
Read to Learn/Learn to Read
Dr. Tim Shanahan’s Model of Reading
Understanding by Design
Classroom Instruction that Works
What’s the point?
The point I want to make is that each of these initiatives was intended to improve our teaching. I was involved in a conversation not too long ago with a couple of veteran teachers. We were compiling this list of initiatives that have gone through our district. “What ever happened to these initiatives?” was a comment made by one of my colleagues. “We talk about it at an institute, maybe have a few in-services and then we’re done.” And this made me wonder. Is this a common thought in the minds of most teachers? Do teachers feel that these are just drive-by initiatives? In one year and out the next?
We’ve missed the point
When an educational initiative comes to us, the expectation is that we learn it, through professional development, through discussions, through collaboration, through reading additional resources. We then begin to incorporate it into our units and lessons. In order for us to fully prepare our students through their educational experiences, it is important for us to move out of our teaching comfort zone and learn new techniques, read the latest research, and implement them into classroom practice where it best matches the standards/skills being learned.
Those of you that have been reading this blog post know that we are advocates for the Common Core State Standards. It is not meant to be a new flavor of the month, but rather the vehicle that will drive our new, revamped, revitalized 21st century curriculum. Implementing the Common Core and using the SACI unit design template will help build relevant and engaging units of study. The Common Core will improve student achievement. How am I confident? It is through the data that I have collected through my formative assessments. The Common Core has provided me and my staff with useful student information where we can make informed decisions about student achievement. We use this data to drive our curricular decisions. Our curriculum is not static, but rather fluid and flexible .
None of what we learn through our institutes and professional development is meant to be a passing fad. It is to help us become better educators which in turn will help us build the leaders of tomorrow.
I would like to give a shout-out to all my new friends I met in Chicago at the National Conversations on English Learner Education sponsored by the US Department of Education. It was great to meet all of you! I hope we can keep in touch. I have begun a group on Michelle Rhee’s site StudentsFirst. The listserv group is called… you guessed it: Common Core. We can use this group as a way to network and share ideas.
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