Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget

August 29, 2014

The Common Core Cannot Lack in Common Sense or Compassion

The Common Core Cannot Lack in Common Sense or Compassion or it wont work- A stressed teacher speaks out
Where have you been Katie?
I know you have been asking that, right?
Where is our friend Katie?
Well, let me tell you! I started school. I started school, I tell you! I love my kids and I love my new Zen-self. I am trying to be a little more Zen and balanced with my life. Well all of that was fine and good until I heard this word uttered.
Modules.
I saw the modules for the first time 4 weeks ago. Modules of Study. Units of Common Core skillfully created by teachers in our district and put into a labyrinth-like web site that one day I will understand, but today is not that day.
Yes, my district has created AMAZING Modules for us, and we are Common Coring it up. I am a tad overwhelmed by the site, just a tad…. There are so many words on my computer screen. So many links to click on in the Module website and I get lost, then my eyes water and cross and itch. I walk away from the computer and come back. I try to find “that page” I was on in “that tab” of the Module and I can’t find it cause now I’m in the wrong “box” of the Module from the drop down menu. Did I imagine the text dependent questions page? What happened? I panic and no one cares.
I must retain this Zen state I have tried so hard to achieve. I can do hard things. This is not the end of the world.  I have time to figure out this site. I am a good teacher, an engaging teacher, and I understand the Common Core, so I just need to deal with this Module-thing-a-ma-giger. I am Zen. If my name was Jennifer, you could call me Zen-Jenn.
So I decide no more getting lost on the site. I am going to print the Module. No more clicking. I am going to print the whole thing, then I am going to highlight and tab things that are important… Let’s do this old school! I might even put some stickers on it to make it pretty. OH EM GEE. I’ll use markers, and I’ll color code the BIG stuff like text-dependent questions, essential questions, and really evaluate the heck out of this.
I click the “print” button.
“Printer out of ink.” flashes across my screen.
The Zen is evaporating from my body, and I am getting sweaty and upset. This could be in part because my grade level created an amazing ELD/RTI rotation, used it for 2 months, and our admin said it’s rubbish. Not really, but he said he did not like it, change it, like change it tomorrow. “You will figure it out ladies. I don’t like what you are doing now.” he said. “Do this instead. Put aside what you think works for your kids and do this smaller groups model.” We hashed it out for a while and then promised to obey him. I wanted to say, “ Why didn’t you tell us TWO MONTHS AGO?” But I held it in. So it’s Wednesday and he wants a new plan in action Thursday (when I have a sub).  So I was already kind of upset, but I was not going to let ELD/RTI ruin my Zen. I was not going let ink ruin my Zen. None of it is a life changer.  Just buy ink and change ELD/RTI. No problem. I can do hard things.
So I drive to Staples. I buy black ink. I come home only to see this…..
IMG_3172[1]
Yep that blue C means the computer wants blue ink. Not black, blue.
Zen is dead. All used up. I felt the last of my Zen come out my ears in the form of steam. Steam I tell you. BUT IT GETS WORSE!
I drive back to Staples. I call my bestie on the way. She responds with the appropriate amount of compassion for my Common Core/Ink Crisis. She does this because she is a teacher and loves me.
I go into Staples and think, “You know what? For good measure I will buy all 4 colors in the mega pack because you know the minute I put blue ink in the printer, it will want magenta!” Someone should write a book along the lines of If you give a Mouse a Cookie, but title it, If You Give a Printer Red Ink.
if you give a printer

So I’ll buy the mega pack of ink. Look! I am ahead of the game. I am finding Zen again in the isles of Staples. I am also finding Mr. Sketch markers. That’s right sisters! Zen is back! I have ink! I have markers! I have ZEN!
I get home, unwrap the ink and I see it. What on Earth! I bought 125 ink instead of 126! 
verses
SHUT UP. SHUT UP UP UP ! SHUT UP! This did NOT happen! At this point Zen has left the building. It has gone somewhere to hide from me. Zen is very afraid of me right now. I think my dog might be afraid too because he left the room.
And you know what. It’s 8:56pm. Staples closes at 9pm.
Crap. Teacher to the Core is pissed. Pissed to the Core. Pissed at the Common Core. Pissed at Modules and change, pissed at ink and printers. Pissed that the ‘97 Standards are no longer cool. Pissed.
Zen is not dead. It is hiding. I try to find Zen. I need to find Zen. Who cares about ink? Who cares about modules. I need to be peaceful again. I am going to go to bed, maybe Zen is there?
I wake up. Zen was not in my bed, or dreams. I am thinking of making signs to post in my neighborhood. “Missing Zen. If found, please call.” Then I remember I don’t have any ink, so I can't print the signs.
I get dressed and I go to the Module training on how to use the new Math Modules to go with the old curriculum- this should be super fun. There was no sarcasm in there. I love trainings! I have a sub and I have amazing teachers to work with and a great set of presenters and we start dig in. We are having a great time. And then it happens.
Our trainer is asking me a bunch of questions as I am trying to explore this Module and plan with the team. I am supposed to be presenting to our team on the two danged hardest standards and how our math series does or does not address the standard. I am supposed to use a brand new 48 page flip book given to us on site to help.  People in the room are starting to call it the “flipping book”.  And our presenter is telling me “Oh those are the hardest standards, so what are you thinking? What have you noticed? What do think about addition and subtraction being taught together? I am trying to explain myself and defend my belief that addition and subtraction should be taught together, only kind of together, not really though.  Subtraction should be hinted at but not mixed in too much until the end of the year. 
Here is what I mean for right now in September of first grade….I have five cookies and get 1 more. That’s 5+1=6. My cookie group went up. I eat two cookies my cookie group just went down a little bit. Yes, groups go up and down. Now back to addition.
I mean they should be taught in a very organic mixed in way at this point. Hinting at subtraction, but just a hint, a tease, cleavage, but nothing more ‘cause it’s September.
I can tell maybe this is not really what she wants to hear. I can tell she kind of wants to hear that they should be taught together-together. I might be wrong. I can’t really tell anything. She is delightful, but she is a stranger and I don’t really know what she wants from me.  I keep explaining myself and she starts to wave her hands in that circular motion that people do when they are trying to lead you to an answer. I am mid explaining, as in the middle of a thought,  and she says… “Right! So we call that_______________. And she stops. She is waiting for me to respond. Fill in the blank.  Crap.
I hate this Common Core engagement/struggle until you want to die kind questioning. Explore, figure it out, give me your big idea, but it better be the right one or you *might* look like an idiot. All of this happening at a training is really annoying.
I think the kids don’t like it either. At least not in the large doses it seems to be heaped on them these days. “Let the kids figure it out” “Let them EXPLORE, let them struggle.” For how long?
In this moment before I tell you that I kind of freaked out on the trainer let me tell you that there seems to be a whole bunch of Common Core misconceptions that I think lack in compassion toward the learner.
  • We need to facilitate them coming to right conclusions quickly. It should be this IMHO:  They do (explore, learning together), we do (teaching maybe even God forbid “I do”), and then you do (practice) Practice can also include learning together as long as they are taking turns and articulating their thinking so there is still some semblance of individual accountability.  But too many teachers seem to be focusing on exploring, thinking about thinking, building their thinking, and not moving into the teaching part fast enough. I am not saying I have to be the one teaching all the time. I love removing myself from the sage on the stage position. They can learn so much from a peer articulating, but at some point there needs to be an answer, consensus. Exploring in the woods is fine for a time, but we need to arrive back at camp or we are all going to die in the woods of hunger. Kids, especially young ones, need to explore and then be brought around quickly. Floundering or exploring endlessly can become quite uncomfortable and a waste of time. At some point a circle is a circle, a square is a square, and 4+5=9.  Let’s get this going.
  • Let’s talk for a second about how much time we are spending on things too. Some standards are high yield standards. Spend time on them. Engage the heck out of them. Use all your engagement tricks. Use your Kagan! Use your Engagement Cube, use your SIOP skills.  Thinking map that standard until it surrenders to your awesomeness and your students rock it like a boss!  BUT some standards are the kind where you get in, get out, and take some extra time in your reading groups that day.  Do not ENGAGE/EXPLORE the heck out of everything. Your kids can’t take it. You can’t take it. You probably don’t have time to plan it. Not every lesson has to be a symphony. Some lessons are just scales. This makes sense to my musical friends. I am not very sporty, but I’ll try. Not every lesson is a full basketball game, some lessons are just shooting free throws. My point is please have compassion on the children and yourself. Allow them to breathe, allow yourself to breathe. Planning for the Common Core cannot lack in Common Sense and Compassion. Please use both in planning and teaching.
So that is my compassion rant.  I rant because I have a son in the Common Core right now. He is a 2nd grader. His very formative years are right now. As we fumble along in the Common Core and he still needs to be taught stuff. Luckily his teachers are rocking it.  But at times this notion of “Let the kids figure it out” kind of irks me because I have to hope and trust that his teachers don’t let him figure it out too long, or let him take his thinking too far in the wrong direction, or fatigue the joy of learning right out of him because it becomes exhausting and he is tired of “Think-Pair-Sharing” with the child next to him. Rant over. I promise.
So are you ready to hear about the freak out?
So here I am. All that rant {above} is built up in me. The Zen never came back, I never did get ink in the printer, and my sweet-as-apple-pie facilitator is waving her hands at me and wanting me to find some answer in the woods.  I can’t explore any more. I am in a MODULE TRAINING FOR PETE’S SAKE. TELL me. TELL ME what the word you want is,  because I was in the middle of a sentence and you started waving your arms. Now I am lost and tired from the exploration. I am fatigued and I have NO INK in my printer. Just tell me Module Maven because I KNOW you know.
So I tell her empathically . “Please stop. I don’t like this kind of Common Core questioning. I don’t like the “you know the answer and I am exploring to find it”. I don’t like that kind of questioning when I am in the thick of Module Mania. And now you are waving your arms at me. This is tricky and trainers treating the trainees like kids is not my favorite. Instructional styles in the Common Core can’t forget compassion for the learner. I am the learner here. I don’t know what you want me to say”
I said it you guys and now I don’t know how to feel.
I feel like it was not the best manners. I feel like she is doll and sweet and we would love each other if I had not just gotten feisty. I feel like it needed to be said.
Of course, I waved her back over 15 minutes later and asked her to forgive me for having been so heated.  She did. I asked her not be afraid of me and that I was really a super nice person.  But, at this point with the Modules, our district wants us to use, with adopted curriculum that does not support the Common Core, I need Module Direction.  No more wandering in the woods. I need the map (Modules), training on how to use the map, and a canteen filled with vodka. Cause tomorrow I have to teach this and understand it myself.
I am pretty sure she forgives me. I am pretty sure the ladies at my table survived seeing this. (Apparently, I made quite and impression on them. They all work at my husband’s school and ran to his room this morning to tell him they “had no idea Katie had such a feisty side!”)
trainings can be really hard
I am going to survive the roll out of the Modules. I am going to keep creating along the way because the consensus was you CAN’T use the math program for a couple of these standards. I am pretty sure my son will survive all this too. 
For now I am going to add as much common sense, compassion, and engagement to the Common Core as possible.  And I am also going to go find the Zen that ran away and hid during the ink crisis. I am pretty sure I saw it hiding in my bathtub. I plan to add bubbles and water to the Zen and soak all of it up.
Please tell me, do you experience more crisis over the Common Core or your district’s interpretation of the Common Core?  What do you remind yourself when you start to feel twitchy? Do you have a Zen-ism… please share!

45 comments:

  1. Oh, ink :(
    Ink cartridges are SO frustrating. Frustrating that they seem to run out every other day. Frustrating when I have to change all the text to red because the black cartridge is low. Ink is definitely a zen-buster. I would say I definitely stress over the interpretation of CC, rather than CC itself. My go-to mantra usually is "it will be better next year...it will be better next year..." Thank you for posting this! Have a great weekend! Jen :)

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    1. I like your mantra. It will be better next year. It really will.

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  2. Think about it. Weekend is here so you can go back to your Zen state! You will pull through! :)

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  3. Oh you poor thing, I cannot help with the common core (although I think there are some similarities to what we do in NZ) but I do hope getting it all out of your system on to here knowing we wont judge and getting your Zen bath will help somewhat. If all else fails vodka will help you find your way, vodka, wine, whisky chocolate...whatever your 'poison' :)
    I do agree with the whole printing it out idea (ink dependant), sometimes that is just the best way to go, studies are already showing we retain more when we read from paper than from a computer :)
    The Almost Their Height Teacher

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  4. I am right there with you. Everything you said was spot on. Sigh. We'll figure out how to make it work, we always do.

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    1. Naomi, I know that last part wasn't really our mantra, but it's funny if you say it as one.... "We'll figure out how to make it work. We always do!" This sounds pretty good!

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  5. You have said EXACTLY what I have been thinking about since our back to school workshop earlier this week. At one point, I even took a break, texted my teacher husband, and told him I was going to look for cruise ship careers--I didn't want to do this anymore! I COMPLETELY agree with you--while I do like CC, I don't like exploring every single little idea to death. Your analogy of wandering in the woods is perfect. I don't like wandering (or hiking in the woods for that matter, esp after watching a seriously scary movie 14 years ago) and I HATE when the teacher says, "...and........and........" with the circling of the hands! The danger of exploring too long at some lessons is too great and wasteful. Thank you for this post; I appreciate your honesty and getting the words out of my head. You are my Zen!! Maybe now I can enjoy this weekend (and stop looking at Holland America career sites...).

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    1. Oh Emma! I was so afraid this post was too much! My husband read it and was in shock. I don't usually talk this way. But at some point we fatigue and need to just be told what to do next. I kind of thought the training might go something like this. Here you go ladies. I want to take you on a walk through the web site. We are all going to hold hands so no one gets lost. We are going to drop bread crumbs just so we feel really safe. We are going to do a good amount of clicking and then we are going to plan together in table groups. I want you to not to stress. When you feel stressed, I want you to look up. I'll come over and help you. I'll tell you what I might do if you want to know. We can do this. We can do hard things! I think that this is actually the heart of our training team. I know these women and like them VERY much. But at times it seems like they are pressured to ENGAGE us ENGAGE us ENGAGE us at a training! I am teacher who just spent 2 hours leaving Common Core lesson plans for a sub. I am teacher who is now putting a capital M in the word Module because it's larger than life to me at the moment. Please be careful with how much you tax me. I was a little used up before I got here.

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    2. Isn't it incredible how so many of us feel this same pressure and frustration? Thank goodness I have incredible blogs to turn to. Your sense of humor and way with words is awesome. Kind of like therapy, all with a glass of wine and a plate of chocolate. And, yes, We can do this! My principal tells my staff that "We are Bad Ass and We CAN do this!" Hugs to you!!!
      emma

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  6. I loved this post. Everyone needs to see that teachers are human. We have lots of stresses in our life, and sometimes we just want to be told what to do. We shouldn't always have to "figure" it out. YOU are awesome, YOU are amazing, and YOU are going to ROCK THIS!

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    1. YOU are my hero John Hughes! Thank you.

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  7. I understand exactly how you feel. My Zen has left the building. I've had to stock up on extra ink because our district has been changing our unit 'modules' (or the assessments, or tasks) without warning, sometimes several times per week. Something I've printed out for planning one week might be obsolete the following week. Oh, and there's no e-mail to let us know that a unit, (or task, or assessment) has changed. We just have to keep checking the district's CC pages and search around. Kinda like an Easter egg hunt...but without the reward of chocolate.

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    1. Oh my word!!!!!!!!!! Sending you chocolate!

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  8. You wrote down EVERYTHING I have been feeling the past month, well minus the ink and substitute copy paper in there. As we were at our district trainings we got an email from our school secretary letting us know that we were already out of our paper for the beginning order. How the heck did that happen when all of us teachers were at the training 30 minutes away??? Did aliens abduct our paper??? At the training they told us all of the new things they wanted US to go out and buy to make amazing anchor charts. "Yes, the oversized post-its are expensive, but go out and buy them because anchor charts are the third teacher in the room. No, the district is not supplying them, but we expect to see them in your rooms come Monday!" GRRR! My new zen sentence has been, "I do not have recess duty on Friday..." the only good news I heard the first week back. I just keep repeating it! Luckily I have an amazing group of kiddos this year, so that does help a little - and lots and lots of Starbucks!

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    1. Oh my goodness! Those darn alien paper-snatchers came to my school too. 3 grade levels believe that the same 2 cases of paper are theirs. So since no can decide, we all just look at the paper until it can be determined. What happened to the other 4 cases of paper????? What about cutting up butcher paper as your anchor chart paper?

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  10. I loved your post. Thank you for putting it all out there and ranting for all of us! I teach kindergarten - and am trying hard to keep some fun in my babies' days. One thing that scares me a bit is that some of the CC leaders are passing the word to all the preschool teachers that they have to ramp up the learning of our 3 and 4 year olds. At which age will it be okay to learn through playing, story-telling, and making friends?

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    1. I hear you Barbara. When is eating play dough and glue and hearing a story and learning to share and welcoming new ideas from new voices just OK? Isn't it enough the kids have left moms side to explore the world at 3? When is it OK to be a kid. Here is what I think. Kids are curious. They are natural learners. I wonder if at the 3 year old level if they are at the play dough center, rolling and making snakes anyway if we might put a laminated letter in front of them and see if they can lay the snake on top to make a letter. If they don't want to, well baby just keep making snakes and snails and flowers. You play with play dough and we love you. Even having the alphabet card in front of them is upping the rigor. I don't have any answers, but I do fear burnout. Can you imagine burning out a 3 year old? Tragic.

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  11. I have a half-day training on Common Core ELA and our new Reading series this coming Wednesday. I may not be able to stay in my state of "Jen Zen" either. I am write there with you in my wish for more common sense, compassion and a return to developmentally appropriate practice in our instructional mindset, and I may need a Pink Moscato wine bath that night.

    Thanks for saying what many of us are thinking! I am going to ask my team mates to read this, and share it on my FB page. Keep "speaking for the trees"....just like the Lorax!
    ~Jennifer
    Stories and Songs in Second

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    1. Jennifer, you really can be Zen Jen! I love it! I speak for the trees and all the teachers having a moment. May you all handle yourself a little better than I did!

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  12. Yassssss! One day. One day, I tell ya. I will have the courage to also kindly explain to presenters that I am all "growed" up and would appreciate a more adult tone to the session.

    Janice
    @1islandlover

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    1. Our presenters are soooooo good, and I think the heart is to have us participate in engaging lessons, but they forget how tired we are and that we might just want to sit and absorb for the day instead of share out out out since we do this all day every day!

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  13. Wonderful, cathartic, AMEN, post. I will be sharing. I am just an instructional assistant who also does reading intervention, but I see, hear, and feel this every moment of every day from the people I work with. I thank God my kids are both in High School right now where it can't touch them as much. Thank you for sharing.

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  14. While I agree that we do need to teach children that it's okay to struggle, make mistakes, and persevere, they also need direction! How you do that is up to you!:) I don't think that students walk in the first day knowing how to do this. Just like we build up reading stamina, we have to build up a stamina for this as well. I love your analogies!
    I also dislike being treated like a student at trainings. I'm their to be trained, I'm an adult, please treat me like one. I wonder if anyone likes going to a training where the presenter acts this way.....
    I like your idea for the book! I've always thought that "If a teacher plans a lesson" would also work well!;)
    I actually like CC. My son is in 2nd grade as well and his teachers thus far have been phenomenal. As teachers who have core standards that change every 5-10 years in Math and E.L.A. we know that at the end of the day it's the teacher that teaches the students, not the core. Love it or hate it, Mrs. H. will make the difference in my child's learning progress this year, not the core. I will be the one who will make it or break it for my students this year, not a checklist of what they need to be taught. We will survive this, our children will still make progress and grow to be amazing individuals, and just when we are comfortable.......they'll change the Core again!:) Loved your article and will be following you from here on out! Cheers!

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    1. Good gracious! I must be tired! Please excuse the grammatical errors and chalk it up to a teacher who needs the extra day of rest tomorrow!:)

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    2. I love your grammatical errors. As a matter of fact, I am so tired I did not see them. I love the Common Core too. I have loved it for 2 years. I will love the modules in a month, I know that too. But it's the pressure that gets me crazy. Most of the pressure I put on myself. We are all going to make it!!!! I just know it!!!

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  15. Oh girl...I'm not sure you can fathom how much I love you and your friendship. Muah.

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  16. Good gracious, I love you Katie!! I was actually losing my Zen for you while I was reading this. I could picture myself in your shoes completely. I LOVE everything you said. I feel the same way about exploration. It is overused to the point where sometimes we forget/neglect/refuse to just TEACH our students. Some kids love to explore. Most kids need that time to explore and think but really do need to come back together and be taught explicitly. I am one of those kids. Teach me, then let me practice and explore. Then teach me again. Then maybe I'll really get it. Leave me out to dry to figure it out on my own and I'm toast. I lose my zen and I feel not so smart. That's not productive for anyone. You nailed it with the compassion piece. I love your honesty too! Thanks for a great post my friend. :)

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    1. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Thank you Sarah!

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  17. I love this post!!! It was just what I needed to read! My Zen ran out the door screaming this week and I am feeling super, super overwhelmed! There are so many things to read and click and do that some days it is definitely more than me (and my zen) can take! I love your saying about how planning for the Common Core cannot lack in common sense or compassion. Thank you for giving my zen a boost! :)

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    1. Alex, it ran out the door screaming!!!!!!!!! Mine was shaking and weeping when I finally found it. We are going to have to send our Zen to therapy!

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  18. Very good post. I'm sorry that I may have laughed a few times at your story. I feel your pain. We have EBLM's this year. I feel like I'm lost in some kind of crazy maze. All I want to do is teach & create a wonderful environment for the kids to learn in.

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    1. EBLMS sounds like a contagious illness. Sending prayer and love Carol!

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  19. You sound like you could be in my district! They are starting to dabble in the module area with math, and I am NOT wanting any part of it. I'm pretending it doesn't exist, to the point I told my admin I'm NOT going to any training by one trainer and she can't make me go! I love how we have to teach old not common core material but figure out the new standards because our district won't buy new curriculum because we are still poor! It's so frustrating! Just let me teach and do my job with my kiddos! Yeah, I miss the old 97 standards! Those were the days....
    ~Kristen

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  20. Katie,

    Let me just say that you are flippin hilarious! I love the analogy of the printer and red ink! Let me just say that you are not alone. It is all about how people interpret the Common Core. Sometimes I feel like the blind is leading the blind on this one. Everybody has their own idea of what it should look like, and people are pushy with their ideas. The result is that the kids suffer! I am so glad you wrote this post. It really puts things in perspective for me, and I am not the only one thinking some of the things that go through my head! Katie, you are are a ROCK STAR!!!

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  21. Hi Katie!!! Oh my gosh, I absolutely LOVED this post! I also love reading the comments that are exactly how I feel too! You had me literally laughing out loud. I also was nodding along. You said everything I've been dying to say! Thank you!!!!!

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  22. I am absolutely laughing hysterically and tears are running down my face. So totally relate to that post. The ink...the zen....the modules...the "wait time" in the answers. Oh my. You hit the head on the head...oh wait, that sounds like the vodka in the canteen speaking. :) Hang in there. Anyone with a sense of humor like this will survive. Thanks for keep making your great things, and we will get through this.

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Thanks for commenting! I feel the love!

 
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