Three Years Into the Common Core: A Teacher’s Survival Story

It was strange hearing speakers and teachers talk about their plans for implementing the Common Core at NCTM last week.  In Kentucky, we are three years into our implementation and in fact I am getting ready to administer my 3rd state test measuring my student’s Common Core proficiency.  Here are just a few of my observations 498 school days after we started Common Core.

The First Year Wasn’t Pretty

My colleagues and I were laughing the other day about how clueless we were the first year we taught the 7th grade stats unit.  It wasn’t pretty.  Together we have over 50 years experience between us but yet teaching mean absolute deviation and variability to pre-teens didn’t come naturally.  This year is the first time I honestly really felt like I have done a good job getting the concept across.  Could I have done better?  Of course there are things I already realize that I could have done better but the point is every year into the Common Core I have refined what I have done and improved.  At this rate, when I retire in 20 years I will be a really good teacher.

When They Said the Common Core was Deep They Meant Below Sea Level Deep

The subtitle says it all here.  I heard people say the Common Core was deep but I had no clue how deep until I got into it.  Sadly, I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the depth needed to really do the Common Core justice.  To me, the key to this is a philosophical switch that has to start as early as Pre-K to change our focus from skills and answer based mathematics to a style that is much more about reasoning and understanding math.  I don’t think this change can happen overnight.  I try and encourage it from day one in my room but unfortunately the kids seem to be trained to mix the numbers together and come up with an answer no matter what the instructions.  I hope to make some impact on this in the 177 days they have be but I really believe that as math professionals we all need to do a better job and bring this mindset change to fruition.

The Standards for Mathematical Practice are More Important than I Realized

I can’t lie, I really blew off the eight standards of mathematical practices when the Common Core was released.  I went to tons of P.D. on it and generally left rolling my eyes and believing that I had enough to do covering the Common Core without trying to introduce practice standards too.  Since then my view point has changed.  I focus on them a lot.  In fact, I recently made the claim that if I taught no content for a year and really used the practices to turn all of my students in to mathematicians my scores would improve more than if I taught every minute detail of the content.  I stand by this claim, the Standards of Mathematical Practice are all about helping kids reason and argue and I can’t argue with that.

We are Each Other’s Greatest Resource

I am tired of hearing about Common Core aligned text books and curriculum.  It is unnecessary in my opinion.  I do believe however that this is the most exciting time to be a math teacher.  Once everyone implements the Common Core think of the resources and ideas that can be finally be shared regardless of location.  I have already had some outstanding twitter and blog conversations with people nationwide sharing ideas, successes, and frustrations.  I can’t wait until more of us are in the thick of it and can work together to do the best we can for kids.

In the end our implementation of Common Core wasn’t always easy.  The first year saw the bottom fall out of test scores statewide as the bar was raised, we scrambled to find resources to meet the demands of Common Core and were uneasy about teaching content that was previously foreign to us.  In a way that first year seems light years away now when I think of how far we have come.  I am excited about continuing to grow professionally and hope to hit that successful mark by the time I retire!

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