It is not uncommon to fear the unknown. Twenty short years ago I entered my first middle school language arts classroom in Hillsborough County, Florida, armed with an enthusiastic attitude, a bevy of educational theories, and, of course, a curriculum guide. But along with these tools, I brought a deep fear: What if the students do not learn? What if my style of teaching was out of style? What if I fail to truly help these students learn?
Over time, my fears were allayed. I worked on my timing, demeanor, practices, procedures, relationships, rigor, and, at times, comedy to shape the classroom experience that my students receive today. The learning curve was great, but over the course of a few years, my students were experiencing true learning gains.
Once again, I am wrought with the fear of the unknown as I embark on a journey of a teacherpreneur this school year; wherein, I will devote half of my school day to middle school students and afternoons to developing a product to help teachers and parents understand and implement the Common Core State Standards. This task is daunting, exciting and frightening as there is a lot to learn and share.
Nationally, there is a growing fear of the Common Core State Standards themselves. Some groups fear that the sheer number of states that are committing to the CCSS is problematic while others are concerned with the ways states will assess these new standards. As a veteran classroom teacher, I suggest three things in states adopting the CCSS: information, patience, and time.
Information – All educational stakeholders must clearly understand exactly what these standards are and even what they are not. The Common Core State Standards are a comprehensive list of what students should know and be able to do, using 21st century skills. These standards are not a curriculum guide of what to teach and when to teach it.
Patience- Educators across the country are diligently implementing curriculum that supports these rigorous standards, but are also learning as they go. Just as new teachers must plan, implement, modify, alter and cycle through these modifications daily, educators everywhere are undergoing the same trials navigating the new standards. Ultimately, educators will learn the best methods and practices to help students successfully meet the standards, but we have to be patient throughout this process.
Time- States, school districts, teachers and students may benefit the most if given time to work with these standards before jumping into the arena of assessing how well students are learning. Allowing all stakeholders to become more comfortable with these national standards before adding the high-stakes testing component would allow for more insight into their implementation through the sharing of successes and failures. Besides, teachers will find effective methods of assessing student learning in their classrooms; they have done so successfully for decades before high-stakes, standardized testing.
Fear of the unknown sometimes prevents me from sleeping well the night before the first day of school, even in my twentieth year, yet I have learned to how to successfully prepare for school. Similarly, the fear of the unknown with the Common Core State Standards should be driving states to educate stakeholders, exhibit patience, and offer time for successful implementation.