The Joys of Teaching: Bringing Back the Poetry, the Puppetry and the People

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

~Einstein

Sometimes life it just too much.  Things come flying at you faster than you can handle and the goal becomes to just get through each and every day and to do the best that you can.  In the midst of great busyness you check things of the list and move on.  But at some point you stop and realize that you are not living as much as creating a record of living.  I may be “doing”all of the mechanical movements to get through a day, but the mundane checks on the list mean very little in my life.

ImageI believe that we get what we give, you know, karma and all of that great stuff.  And as I read through my blog posts I realize how much power and energy I myself have given to the Common Core State Standards.  So I decided to devote one entire class with my graduate students of teachers and devote it to the joys of teaching.  I asked each teacher in my group to think about and come to class with a unit, an idea, collaboration, a lesson that they loved.

And I wish you could have felt the energy, the laughter, and yes even the tears that came out of this discussion.  One teacher talked about how she had her students make toothpaste. Students would bring in ingredients that they then combined with baking soda and water. One teacher chimed in talking about how her daughter was in that class and how they brought in chocolate extract and how disgusting chocolate toothpaste was.  She laughed at the great messiness and engagement and sheer joy in this experiment.Image

Others talked about great units they had planned with colleagues and how those units moved children.  Another spoke of her grand puppet making and how those puppets were then used to create and show meaning within a social studies unit.  I wish I could have bottled that energy…but there is no way to measure that energy so it is deemed useless.  But at the same time it was the excitement behind the thinking that went into the planning and execution of these lessons, units and projects.  And if these teachers were this excited just talking about them they you know the execution of them was the same…and that energy then becomes the energy of the classroom!

I talked about one of my all time favorite units when I was a third grade teacher in Barrington, NH.  Our team created the most incredible unit on the history of Barrington.  It included storytelling as we brought in the Calef’s and their descendents and neighbors who told great tales of the grist mills and the endless springs walking to school in feet of mud. And what incredible storytellers these elders were!   Students would hear these stories and then research and read stories of their own to tell at a celebratory tea where parents and townspeople were invited to hear their stories.  They were also asked to interview someone in the community and we compiled these interviews into books to be shared with the town.  Every day was filled with Barrington history as I read through the town history book and uncovered more great tales to tell.  The month long unit ended with the great town tour.  This was more of a scavenger hunt really where we handed out riddle books with clues and questions.  This book was their guide and they had to think to figure out where they were going.  Small groups would pile into parents cars and off they would go to the Isinglass Riverbanks to the old schoolhouses, where they would be invited in and given a brief history.  I can’t even tell you how much the townspeople welcomed our kids into their homes; some even made snacks and drinks in preparation for their day of visitors.

I have heard that parts of that unit actually still exist in Barrington Elementary, but that the big parts, like the town tour are no longer allowed because of liability.  How sad that litigation gets in the way of good learning?  Once again it is the checks that matter…no more unsafe driving conditions for kids.  (Ironic if you have ever ridden on a school bus with no seatbelts really!)   Never mind how beneficial that town tour was and how it connected the taxpayers to the students and was a starting point in bringing the town together, creating connections and community between the young and the old.   What matters are the details (the devil lives there doesn’t he?) and all of the other minutiae that clog up each and every day.

And so after each teacher had a chance to talk about their joyful teaching we gathered into small groups and I asked these teachers to go through the Common Core State Standards and begin to plug in the standards that were actually covered in those units.  In no time at all they were listing standard after standard.  There is very little that is new in these standards but we are coming at it from the wrong direction.  Why?  Because there is money to be made by large corporations (Pearson) and why consult the experts in the field when you can have people who have nothing to do with education create what you need?

And so I ask, why don’t we spend more time in these joyful spaces talking about what we DO DO instead of always what we don’t do?  Why can’t we bring back poetry, and puppetry and create spaces where people want to be?  Why can’t we create thematic units where students look forward to 3rd grade and the town tour almost as a right of passage?  What is missing in the efforts to implement these standards is the whole.  We are so concerned with each little increment and how to “cover” that small piece that we are not doing anything that is connected to anything else…the whole is gone…and without the whole there are just a bunch of pieces floating about randomly in space never to be connected.

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And so I am going to attempt to remain in a place of joy through National Poetry Month. My goal is to read and write poetry each and every day of April.  I will start today and each day I am with students, children and teachers I will have a poem in my pocket to share.  Not so that I can check something off the list, but just for the sheer enJOYment of it.

I will leave you with one of my all time favorites:

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Stories as Community

I come from a long line of great storytellers. It started with my grandfather. Some of the best stories he actually wrote to me in letters while I was at camp.  Stories about the snake that had invaded our play schoolhouse in his yard and how he had tricked it with magic snake dust and was laughing hysterically as he watched that snake cough it’s way down the street never to return.  I still smile at this image.

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A letter from Grandpa

Then there is my father.  I remember it was as if everything in the room would just stop should he begin to tell a story.  You see he doled these stories out like little crumbs.  They were told so infrequently that when they did come you knew it was time to stop and listen.  He tells stories with the greatest sense of anticipation.  It is like he takes you on this wonderful ride and you go through every up and down and turn with him word by word.   It’s funny, but now that he has gotten older, he falls into his storytelling mode daily.  He loves telling them and although you may have just heard it the day before, you still want to listen as it is in the telling that you find great joy.  And he knows this and so he prefaces each story with, “I may have already told you this but…” and he tells it again.

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Dad

Then there is my sister.  She can take any mundane daily activity, like feeding her chickens and turn it into a tale.  Honestly, I am always amazed at how she can take anything and make it fascinating.  I always think she is truly living life like nobody else I know for in the retelling of her days there are countless short stories and anecdotes.  And I wonder, is she crafting these stories as she is living them or does that come after the fact?  Imagine living as if each move that you make is one to be retold in a story later.  Everybody loves to be with Lisa because of her great energy and ability to find the humor is EVERYthing!

There are days she and I will be out in the woods hiking or on the ski lift and her narratives unwind one after the other.  Even better is after she has a couple glasses of wine and the stories flow right along with it.  Together we often rebound off of each other with our stories and we entertain ourselves endlessly.  My Dad always says we sound like a bunch of old hens cackling away.  We tickle ourselves with our tales and then go on to the next one.  We amuse each other.

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Tomasen and Lisa Hiking

Then there are the family legends.  You know, those stories that start out simply and then grow and grow with each telling.  One of the classics is from the summer of 1978, a brutally hot summer when my parents decided we would take one of our only family vacations.  Visions of amusement parks, Disney and swimming pools danced in our heads as we all went running to our rooms to get ready  for the 3 am departure to none other than, Newfoundland.  Yes, 3 kids under the age of 15 all crammed into the green, side paneled Pontiac station wagon for a two week, 4,000-mile road trip to Newfoundland and yes, even a lovely Atlantic crossing over to Labrador.  There are so many stories from this one vacation from it being the first time I ever hearing my Dad “swear” telling us kids in the back that all we did was eat, fight and fart, to the hotel room with the one bare light bulb, bed bugs, drunkards wandering around and the beach front where we played amongst the jellyfish and broken glass for hours.

Then there is my brother who is also a master of words.  He can spin a yarn and sell anyone just about anything.  He is masterful with his superlatives and relentless in his enthusiasm.  His stories are often filled with small bits of information that nobody knows.  As my Dad says, he knows more about everything than I know about even one thing.  He too can keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat for hours.

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Tomasen and Jamie

Stories provide us with a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves and each time one of these comes up there is an energy that surrounds them.  We all laugh as the telling begins and those who have married into the family often find the need to leave as once we get going there is no stopping us.  They exit the room saying, “Here we go again, the one bare light bulb and the drunks in Labrador stories…”

Then there are the stories that were told at Jimmy’s celebration of life last weekend.  Jimmy, 23 years old passed away from Ewing’s Sarcoma on March 16th.  (See previous post)  In lieu of a funeral his family organized a service of stories.  One after the other were people who took the stage and told of a boy, a man, a son, a brother with the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known.  It was not just a rambling of how wonderful Jimmy was…you know the words that anyone could say about anyone, but detailed stories that I find I play over and over in my mind.  Stories that punctuated who he was and what he believed in.

And then I meet with a group of teachers and they tell me that they do not have room in their schedules for read aloud anymore.  And my heart sinks and aches for all of those stories that will not be told, read, discussed and written.  For some kids these will be the only stories they will hear. There is scientific research in the area of stories and how those enrich and actually activate our brains in ways that we don’t even know.”

See here for Your Brain on Fiction, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html?pagewanted=all%3Fsrc%3Dtp&smid=fb-share&_r=0It states, “By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains”

See Vicki Vinton’s latest post here to see what is happening and the kinds of texts 3rd graders are being asked to navigate independently, and all this without daily practice with stories. http://tomakeaprairie.wordpress.com/.  This post speaks about what so many of us are so heartbroken over.

And in the end, I ask, what stories will be told after we are gone?  They will not be stories of the scores we got on what tests, or the achievements we made or the trophies we accumulated.   They will be the stories of connection and what made us unique and individual, the stories that demonstrate how we were part of something larger in this world, how we touched others, the humorous stories, and how we integrated ourselves independently into a larger sense of the world.  Those are the stories that will live on.

So how do we change the narratives that are being played out in our schools?  In another article, The Stories That Bind Us, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0,

Bruce Fieler states,

“The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively.”  He goes on to say, “ The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

And this idea of narrative is taken even further as corporations work to develop community.  Developing community is one of the hallmarks  of a great teacher.  Time in the beginning of each year used to be devoted to creating these communities and creating the narratives where each student became a part of a larger story.  These days, there is no time to create community because there is testing in October so often Community building is replaced with test prep.

We are only as good as our stories and I am finding myself feeling almost embarrassed on some level to claim that I am in education, that I believe in the right to a fair and equal public educational system for all when this system has taken on a life of its own and missing is any sense of story that I would ever want to be a part of.  It is the story of money and corporate power.  And so we must work together to re-write this narrative into one where each character matters and has a part in the larger story, because the alternative is a sterile ground with words on a page that nobody wants to read.

And it begins like this…Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to go to school everyday to see classmates, to discover new ideas, to create, to sing, to play, to explore, to inquire, to wonder, to read and write and be a part of her larger school community…

One story at a time…

Miss-Interpretations of The Common Core and Teaching Writing: Dumbing Down with Ridiculous Rules, Mortifying Myths and Loquacious Lies

I am just home after meeting with some very talented and knowledgeable 6th grade teachers.  Our goal, to discuss the Common Core standards and get a feel for where they were in planning for their upcoming insurgence.

Part of the discussion was that in writing a persuasive piece of writing that the use of “I” is forbidden.  I asked by whom it was forbidden and they both looked at me like, “everyone” knows this.  And in walks the infamous “They” that makes these rules.  Who is the “they” in this arena?  And while you can find that in certain places the use of “I” is frowned upon it is not in others.  What about the fact that some of the best persuasive pieces ever written have a very capital and strong sense of I!! 

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For instance, if you read through my blog entries, how would you classify (for lack of a better word) what kind of writing it is?  What box would you put it in? Persuasive?  Argument?  Narrative? Informational?  Fiction?  Non-Fiction? Opinion?  Or is it a brand new genre called blogging? Or are there strands of each and all of these?

Or is it just ranting from a girl who lives in the grey areas of life navigating through a world of black and white…forever bumping into the boundaries set by others; hard and fast rules that become the letter of the law lacking any theory to back it up.

I envision it as writing my own newspaper column each week.  Where would that fit in?

I see it as a place where I gather my thoughts, opinions, and ideas and then attempt to support them with the thoughts and ideas and opinions of others.  Sometimes they are simply ideas of my own that I attempt to connect to begin to make sense of what I am thinking about. I write for the surprise that Donald Murray always wrote about.   Does this change what “kind” of writing I am writing on each and every attempt?  Or does it even matter what “kind” of writing is if my readers are reading it and it is making them think and wonder and respond?

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Donald Murray

And why do we insist on creating “new” kinds of writing that only exist in the world of school?  Have you ever seen or read a book report in the “real” world?  What about the whopper of a 5-paragraph essay?  When is the last time your boss came to you and said you need to write up a 5-paragraph essay, due on my desk by Monday?  NO, you have not because the idea of 5 paragraphs is another myth created in the world of education in an attempt to dumb down the process of writing.

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These teachers showed me a template for a persuasive (yes 5 paragraphs in this one too) where the students could essentially fill in the blanks and create a piece of writing that would fulfill the requirements of the Common Core Standards.  I have to SHOUT out here that I really don’t believe these are the intentions behind the CCSS.  This narrow thinking goes back to what Don Graves speaks about as teaching writing in terms of painting by number.  All of the writing in these mythical genres look the same, feels the same, reads the same.  BORING!!!  BUT, as the teachers respond, if we do this then all of the standards will be met and we will be able to point out specifically in different colored pens which parts fulfill which standard.  This leaves teachers in an impossible stance.  They have to choose whether or not to do what they are told or to teach what they know is good writing.  Wouldn’t you think they would be the same thing?

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Donald Graves

Our car is making a horrible noise.  (Using a story/narrative strand here to make my point)  There is a screeching sound that just makes your ears quiver when you turn the wheel.  We need to take it to the mechanic to get it fixed.  When it arrives he will listen to it, diagnose it and make the necessary changes.  Imagine another world, say the world where school meets auto repair and instead of relying on the mechanic there is a checklist that says he must add some simile, a bit of metaphor as well as a heave dose of dialogue to fix and complete this engine repair.  When done he can return it to us with all the things he can check off the list, but still with a broken car.

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Taking the person OUT of the process only creates nonsensical ridiculous and completely absurd moves.  There is NO sense in it and yet this is exactly the response I am seeing to the CCSS.   It is about coverage and covering one’s ass, if I may be so blunt…but who cares if your ass is covered if you are turning out broken down cars and students?  Taking the writer, the “I” out of the process is not going to create confident writers who know and understand when and where to use a writerly move if they have never had the opportunity as writers to make those decisions.  (Using compare and contrast to drive my point home)

I do not start writing thinking; I will use metaphor, simile and dialogue in this piece.  I start out with an idea and then as I write there are opportunities where these moves may or may not be useful to make my writing what I envision it to be.  I may even remove my car metaphor before this piece is formally posted on my blog.  The point it that these decisions are made my ME, the writer, so that I can create something that makes sense and that will engage my readers (hopefully) and allow them to think about something in a way that maybe they had not thought about it before.

My daughter sent me a link the other day about some middle schoolers involved in inquiry projects and created controlled experiment and then wrote it up and submitted it to various scientific journals to share their findings.  Many of the journals, while they praised the work of the students and it’s originality were not open to accepting the work of these student because their report started with “Once upon a time”, in other words it did not follow the “rules” of the scientific genre.

And yet, you can see here on this link to TED that the work of these students was eventually published and is now one of the most read scientific reports on the Internet. http://www.ted.com/talks/beau_lotto_amy_o_toole_science_is_for_everyone_kids_included.html

And here is a link to the actual paper that was published. http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/12/18/rsbl.2010.1056.full

So why are so many people reading this and watching this TED talk?  I would argue (making this an argument piece now!) that they are reading it and listening to it because it is original and interesting and shows us what our kids CAN do if given the opportunity.

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So what are we doing?  In our efforts to do what is “right” we are forgetting to think about how kids learn, why kids learn and why they don’t.  Why are kids so totally removed from their own educations, their own thinking, their processes of discovery and wonder and curiosity?  Why?  Why?  Because that is exactly what we are asking of them.  To fill in the blank, not to think about what they are writing, check it off the list and move onto the next genre.  And the beat goes on…

Photo Credits: BLG Consulting Group, communicationissuccess.blogspot.com, http://unhmagazine.unh.edu, UNH Alumni, http://theclimatescepticsparty.blogspot.com/

Opt Out of Testing: Do We Dare to Bubble Dot That?

Well, the time has come for me to unleash the beast inside and ask you to look at, for yourself, your kids and your community the idea of opting out of High Stakes Testing.  Up until last week I have steered clear of writing about The Common Core State Standards and the test that will follow and how I have seen the rise of testing in our schools over the past 11 years (thank you No Child Left Behind)  has actually undermined and even damaged the education students are receiving by attempting to create a “one size fits all” mentality and leaving systems, professionals and teachers feeling they “MUST” teach to the test. Period.

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Recently Frontline asked three educational reform leaders including Diane Ravitch, Margaret Spellings and Geoffrey Canada  to watch and then speak back to The Education of Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the DC public schools and a highly controversial figure in educational reform.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education/education-of-michelle-rhee/how-do-you-measure-success-in-school-reform/#seg3

Margaret Spellings, former US Secretary of Education under George W. Bush and one of the architects of No Child Left Behind writes in response to Rhee’s work and the upcoming onslaught of the Common Core,

“But I still argue that NCLB’s ambition remains pretty modest – all children performing at grade level in reading and mathematics – the bare minimum any of us would want for our own children or grandchildren. And while having every student meet the new Common Core standards is a laudable goal for DCPS and all the states now pursuing “college and career readiness,” it is an empty promise if they’ve yet to meet NCLB’s more modest goals.”

And I shudder to think that if a proponent of No Child Left Behind believes that even those goals were moderate then perhaps what lies ahead may be more daunting that we even realize.

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The question is do we dare?  Do we dare go against the norm or is the fear of change and going against the norm too much to risk?  Do we fear that by taking our own kids out of the testing world that it will somehow put them in a place of less importance than those who do test?  Will it limit their options in terms of lifelong goals, colleges and careers?  Without “measuring” our kids and putting them into little boxes will they become less significant in this world?  Without their numbers pasted on their backs will they matter as much as those with numbers or even more importantly those with the highest numbers?

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What does it mean to opt out?  Opting out is defined by United Opt Out National, in three phases, the first of which is to change the public narrative that testing is good.   These are the questions I am attempting to raise here.  The second is to break the cycle of complicity, isolation, coercion and the third is to support alternatives through knowledge, collaboration and trust in the power of collaboration.  I do believe that if we come together we can make a difference.  For more details about opting out…

Check out this site that talks about what it means to opt out and how we can band together to do so.  http://unitedoptout.com/flyers/what-does-it-mean-to-opt-out-2/

Or watch this video by Peggy Robertson, one of the founders of opt out, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bJlbkxnDVU where she and her two boys reach out to Diane Ravitch,historian of education at New York University and expert on school reform to join them in the national opt out campaign in DC this coming April 4 – 7 where we will unite to protest against testing.  I am considering making this journey and would love to have others I know come with me or meet me there!!  You interested?  Here are more details.

http://unitedoptout.com/update-for-occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools/

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So it is time for action.  Enough kavetching about it…it is time for action and trusting in the process of collaboration and the idea that if we band together we can make change happen.  REAL change for all of our kids.

What do you think?

Do we dare?

The Not So Common Core Standards: Potential Implications and Meaning For Us All

We live in a country that was founded on differences.  As I write this, I recall images of Felix Baumgartner free falling out of a hot air balloon from space.  We value this ingenuity, this creativity, this originality, this risk-taking. We live in the land of the free and yet everywhere you look, particularly in public education, it would seem we have collectively handed over our freedom in the name of compliance, consistency and the oh so not “common”, known as The Common Core.

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The powerful noblemen have doled out their marching orders to us, the commoners and we had better comply or beware.  David Coleman and Susan Pimenthal, co-authors of the Common Core Standards, are not educators.  They have not spent time in classrooms on the front lines and yet they have determined the core, the central, innermost, or most essential part of education.  So the question is…what does this mean for the public education of our students, your kids, my kids and those of the future?

The Common Core Standards document initially reads as somewhat benign.  Who would argue the idea that there “should” be a core of standards that all students in this great nation strive for?  (Although I tend to avoid “shoulding”on myself at all costs)  How could one oppose standards, ensuring success for all students?  (I mean if over 40 states adopted this then it must be great.)   Who would dare even oppose such a notion?  (And if you do oppose then what is wrong with you to be such a “curmudgeon” or a “whiner”.)  At the risk of being both I will go on.

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Read this kindergarten standard keeping in mind many 5 year olds show up to school and they do not even know their letters and they are beginning to lose their baby teeth.   For some they have never even attended preschool and this is their first school experience.  They are filled with wonder, curiosity, creativity and a natural desire to learn.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.1 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).

I would argue that this is a more realistic standard for our 1st or 2nd graders.  Do we want our students to succeed or do we want to set standards that are so out of their range of normal development that they fail even before they begin?

And while I realize there ARE 5 year olds all over the nation who are more than capable of performing this standard, there are just as many who are not.  There is nothing magical about being 5 that means you are as developed as the other 5 year olds sitting next to you, not to mention that our boys are typically at least 6 months behind our girls.  And if this standard was something to look at in terms of a goal to work towards, I would have no problem with it, but it will not.  It will be seen as what is expected as “common” for all students.  We are starting out leaving over half of our kids behind.

There is no such thing as kindergarten anymore with these standards.  Sorry kids, no time to learn your letters, learn through play and be 5 years old as the standards expect you to show up to school reading informational texts closely and writing persuasive essays already.  Put away the sand tables and the blocks and the dramatic play areas there is work to be done.  And this begs the question, why are we so concerned with the academic side of the child without including the social and emotional sides?  They all work in connection with each other and without each given it’s due the scales are tipped toward disaster.

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The Common Core standards alone are not  bad.  In fact, in my work with schools there are great conversations that are happening as a result of this document as it asks us to look at where we are and what we are doing and what areas we need to improve on.  This is all good reflective practice and if it started and ended there…we would be able to say to ourselves, “This too shall pass”.  But will it?  Never before in public education has there been such a broad sweeping, nationally accepted document.  And while states all over the nation are adopting this document, two groups are being paid millions of dollars to come up with the best assessments (See PARCC (http://www.parcconline.org/achieving-common-core) and Smarter Balanced at (http://www.smarterbalanced.org/)).

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And therein lies the rub.  The high stakes testing piece to this latest “one size fits all” movement will come out in the year 2014 and I am predicting that at this point everything will change.  Schools all over the nation will be failing these tests and large publishing companies will be at their doors with the next magic bullet that will “solve” all testing deficiencies.  Have we learned nothing from No Child Left Behind?  The idea of “teaching to the test” will take on more power and energy than ever.

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This is not about good education.  This is not about educating our kids.  This is about making money and in order for that to happen we must first create an enormous problem.  Failure is the best reason for anyone to buy anything!  Overweight?  Buy this pill or that diet.  Failing schools?  Don’t leave it up the professionals within the schools to figure out what they need, because publishers know so much more. Students?  Who are they?

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We need to return to conversations about our students and what is or is not developmentally appropriate, what our students need for instruction in the moment based on their thinking, their questions and how they see the world.  Would you ever take an infant and force them to “walk” down the stairs?  NO!  But physical development is something concrete.  Cognitive development, on the other hand, is harder to understand and yet we forge ahead with the idea that if we place unrealistic expectations on our students then they will just rise.

They will not rise unless they are ready to rise!!  Those who are not ready will fall and hurdle  to the bottom of the stairs with nobody with be there to pick them up as there is a test to teach to and quite frankly, “I don’t give a  sh!t what you think or feel.”  This is a quote from David Coleman, one of 2 co-authors of the Common Core.   He has also taken on the position as head of The College Board 2 months ago.  This organization has more power over the future of all of our students and now this man will also align the SAT’s and test preps with ‘HIS” common core.  There is even talk of test scores being attached to kids GPA’s.  Can you say conflict of interest?

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Why and how, I must ask, have we allowed one elitist man from Harvard to have so much power over our entire system?    A man, who only cares about what he thinks.  Watch him as he demonstrates his version of a close reading on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTCiQVCpdQc) with A Letter From Birmingham Jail.  Or don’t, unless you really need a nap!  THIS is the future model for good teaching?  He is completely in his own head and unaware of his audience.  This demonstration both scares and depresses me.

And yet, why is it that those of us in education are the first ones to jump on to any wagon that happens to be going by, regardless of what band is playing?  Where has our responsibility to question gone?  Why are we not asking about what band is playing?   Why are we blindly following the pack? Let’s question what is happening here before it is too late.  Let’s take a risk, jump out of that balloon and take the plunge toward thinking and questioning what this means for our kids, our teachers and the future of our entire public educational system.

PS In my next post I will discuss some ways we can become actively involved as I discuss opting out of testing and events we can attend to show our support.