A little more than 20 years ago, I graduated from college with a degree and an eagerness to help students. During my time as a camp counselor, I had the opportunity to work with young people, so I knew I possessed two gifts: the ability to reach young people and enjoy the intrinsic reward of their successes.
Once I began teaching, I struggled mightily, as most young teachers do. I definitely had my middle school students’ attention, but I wasn’t sure they were reaching their potential. The solution came when I decided to focus on students’ needs: what they needed to know and what they needed to be able to do. As my career progressed, I had a lot more learning to do—but focusing on my students’ needs put me on the path toward becoming a more effective teacher.
This year, while serving as a teacherpreneur with the Center for Teaching Quality, I started to examine our educational landscape and saw many needs involving the new standards. I spoke to both parents and teachers who wanted more resources about how the standards relate to 21st-century learning and career and college readiness.
I’ve studied the standards, and I believe wholeheartedly that they will make students more effective thinkers and learners who are better prepared for life after high school. Teachers across the nation are working hard to implement the standards and prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century—but sometimes it’s difficult to explain how the standards play a part in this journey.
Introducing Two New Tools for Parents and Teachers
I recently created two resources to help teachers and parents navigate what the new standards mean to children. The standards are just one of many paths to 21st-century success.
This downloadable, shareable, and printable poster has two parts. On the left side, you’ll see six classroom scenes that show a necessary 21st-century skill that teachers are developing through their instruction with the help of the standards. All six of these skills lead to 21st-century success—and can be found embedded in various lessons and activities at every grade level.
The right side of the poster shows where these classroom paths lead: to three top skills that employers say students will need to be college and career ready. (Research shows that college and career readiness is the #1 topic of interest to parents when discussing the standards.) So this poster shows exactly what parents want to see—how teachers are preparing students for 21st-century success.
This tool also includes an evidence sheet for teachers to use when speaking with parents about the standards. Teachers can “plug in” their own classroom activities to help parents understand how those activities build 21st-century skills and prepare children for college and careers:
I invite you to use, share, and comment on these tools. I hope to help all teachers communicate some of the many strengths of the new standards with parents. And I hope you’ll join the Collaboratory and the Common Core lab to share your experiences with the standards, including strategies for how you develop 21st-century skills in your classroom.