Monday, September 29, 2014

The Hidden Blessings of the Common Core

It's been a long year and half. Has it really only been that long? I first learned of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in January 2013. After a few months of deep research, becoming even more of an education advocate than I already was, and deep prayer, we pulled our oldest child in April 2013 to homeschool him. His little brother followed soon after.

It's been a very bumpy ride. Hang on, that's an understatement. It's been a roller coaster. It's been an education in the legislative process and all it's crooked tentacles. It's been testing of my patience both as a tax paying citizen and as a new homeschooling parent. It's been a test financially as I decided to put my successful business on hold to focus on homeschooling. It's been a major test of my patience, and many scared days calling into question my ability, and the same question every new homeschooler asks.."Can I really do this?"

So as much as I'd love to see Common Core, high stakes testing, school ratings, charter schools and all the other garbage I've learned in the last 18 months has not been without it's blessings and good points.

Like I tell my boys, repeatedly, you can choose to have a good day or a bad day.

I choose, in the face of all the nastiness that has come with this journey (and I do mean nastiness, I'm looking at you LABI and Stand for Children, Senator Appel and many more) to find the joy. Here is what I've found on this journey:

*People are amazing. Both bad amazing and good amazing. But overall, in spite of what you read in the media, most of these parents who are fighting so hard for the simple RIGHTS they are afforded, are good people. They are not raving lunatics from fringe sect groups. They are you and me. Every day Americans. Some are Tea Party, some are liberal, and every group in between. There are parents of every color, race, creed, religion, financial situation, coming to the table now. People who previously had NO clue how the education system worked are reading, learning, going to school board and state meetings. Children are going to their state capitol's to see how this all works! People are standing up, and taking BACK what is rightfully theirs...control over their child's education.

*I've made awesome friends. Some in real life, some online. I've encountered thousands upon thousands of amazing, awesome, strong, brave people who just said, enough is enough.

*I've had some great opportunities. I've had the chance to be on several national news programs because of this, which would've never happened to a plain old mom like me! I wish I hadn't had to be on them, but I don't mind being a voice for those who feel they can't speak up.

*I've had teachers AND parents tell me they need help to speak out. Teachers are scared, y'all. This isn't trivial. Yes, we can say they need to stand up and speak out, but it's really hard when someone feels their job is on the line. These are crazy times we live in, and it's a lot to ask someone to risk food on the table to speak up. I really feel for our teachers, I do. I was one, I feel you.

*I have learned my children are pretty darn awesome. Even when they drive me nuts, I learned I can indeed be with them pretty much 24/7 and the world will not spin off it's axis. I have a wonderful husband who helps out a lot, and in the end I see my children are learning so much and we are becoming stronger. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of days I cry and ask myself, why!? But all that really does is strengthen my resolve to help get our public schools to a better place so that maybe one day they can return. Will they? At this current rate, no. Never. But I still want to help save the future of public education for my grandchildren and beyond!

*I have learned so much myself!! I have learned many things I was NEVER taught in school, particularly history. Things I don't think they taught even when I was in school, and I KNOW they do not teach now. Since my children do not have to stress over tests or "Passing", we can take the time to truly learn a subject, dig in deep and study the basics and cornerstones of a good education.

*I've learned patience. This is a big one for me. My husband says I'm horribly impatient, and I am. Since he is also agonizingly PATIENT, we are fun sometimes! One of our friends says of my husband, "Your patience makes me impatient!" That was my only concern my husband had was my patience level. Well, it's certainly been tested but friends have remarked I'm far more patient than I used to be. I have had to be patient with my children, legislators, new people who discover the Common Core, new homeschooling families, strangers who question our education choices, and myself most of all.

I could probably go on and on, but you get the picture. Life is all about perspective. So while this may be a big, ugly, monster on top of our education the end, I promise it will pass. It will be another set of standards with another set of initials, followed by another set of assessments. Until we truly regain the true meaning of education which is to impart knowledge and light the fire of learning in students....and until we move away from this culture of workforce training and test taking....we won't be rid of this beast. It just won't happen. Maybe your kids are fine in the Common Core. That's great...but not all are, and I refuse to ruin the love of learning for 29 students because 1 in a class gets it.

Sorry, the teacher in me just won't let that fly.

So I will keep going, albeit at a lesser pace this year. Since my children are not in the classrooms anymore, I now focus on the homeschooling aspect of it. Because mark my words homeschoolers....

We are on their list.



Pam said...

What a great post. You've written a heartfelt account of the ills of CCSS. There is not much that I can add besides a few comments on my own personal experience with the Common Core. As a public elementary school teacher, although I vehemently respected parent's rights to decide what was best for their children, I always thought public school was superior to homeschooling. I believed that keeping children from social experiences and life lessons such as learning how to adapt to different teachers, different approaches, and various environments just wasn't fair. Now, because of Common Core, I would be the first one to encourage parents to keep the little ones home where they can use their imagination, be creative, be spontaneous, and develop a true love of learning, all of the things I no longer had time to foster in my classroom. The new "methods" are all focused on preparing for and passing the test. I actually left teaching (27 years) before I wanted to because of my refusal to be part of this latest reformation. I had seen many "new" methods come, go, and come back again in my 27 years of teaching. My colleagues and I used to refer to this as the ten year cycle or the "recycling" of ideas. Some ideas were good and some were ridiculous. In most cases, the best practices were kept in place, while the in-effective were squashed, a process that made sense to all of us. Not every method is perfect. There was good and bad in each "new" method that came down the pike. They key was to allow the teachers to use their knowledge and experience to recognize the effective aspects of the curriculum and separate them from the ineffective parts of the curriculum. Common Core, however, is an all or nothing mandated curriculum (and it is a curriculum no matter what anyone says) in which the teachers are merely facilitators and spontaneous teachable moments are a thing of the past. The Common Core is by far the most insidious, unexpected, scariest, and far reaching bamboozle that I had ever
experienced, and it remains this way to date. What is most infuriating is that there was absolutely NO piloting process whatsoever. No lay people had any influence or say in its development which is completely out of the ordinary and quite unusual. Case in point, in order to purchase a new reading basal, it took at least two years of planning and piloting before teachers VOTED on which series was the best suited to our students. Veteran teachers can testify to the debating and examination of details, both large and small, that went on before a final decision was made. Conversely, Common Core was dropped in our laps and we were made to feel that we should keep any concerns, evaluations, or issues about its content or implementation to
ourselves. After all, according to our "new" teacher evaluation process, an effective or highly effective teacher "shows willingness to adopt and promote school and district initiatives." Failure to do so could get you a very low rating in this category which could be enough to deem you an ineffective teacher. ( And, if a teacher does speak out, you can bet your bottom dollar that "issues" will be found with other parts of their evaluation as well.) So, in my mind, part of the CCSS is to instill a very subtle fear amongst the staff to comply...or else. So, sadly, Common Core is making kids, teachers, and parents very anxious, but it is making corporations like Pearson and Microsoft very rich. I can't wait to see this cycle of "new" methods to go away, and I doubt their will be parts worth keeping.

mamaslittlemonkeys said...

Thank you very much for sharing your story Pam! I wish more teachers would speak out, but I do understand their hesitance,


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