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Guest Blog: Common Core by Misty Bown

By trade, I am a teacher (I graduated with my teaching degree 9 yrs ago).  By heart I am both a mother (to four kids) and a teacher.  I currently teach preschool from my home five days a week.  I also teach the gifted program 3 afternoons a week at my childrens’ elementary school.

Photo by Silver Stem Photography

Photo by Silver Stem Photography

Let me begin this post with this; I am not here to offend or criticize, but to educate.  I don’t believe there is a one size fits all solution to our education system.  I think the answer lies in differentiation – the solution to our problems in public education will not look the same for every child.  I respect the parents that choose to homeschool their children – that takes a lot of hard work and dedication.  But I also believe that there is still a place for our public education system.  With that being said, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the Common Core.

The reason I decided to write this post on this topic is because of a conversation I had with a friend of mine about a month or so ago.  This particular friend has 2 children.  Neither child is old enough to attend public school yet, but both are enrolled in preschool.  For some reason or another the topic of Common Core came up.  She started to tell me that she had posted a link to an article that showed all these pages that students were doing and these pages were supposedly from a Common Core workbook.  She went on to tell me that she wasn’t sure if she was going to enroll her children in public school because of Common Core.  I was confused and asked why she felt Common Core was a bad thing.  She referred back to the article she had mentioned earlier and said that it was essentially indoctrinating our children and that the pages the children were completing were telling them that they shouldn’t question the government, the President has absolute power, etc.  By this point I was extremely confused.  I have three children in the public school system (5th, 3rd and Kindergarten) and I have NEVER seen any kind of work come home that mentioned the government (with the exception of my 5th grader’s Revolutionary War homework).  I started to pull out homework from all three of my children to show her why I was confused.  She precariously went over the stacks of papers I pulled out.  We were unable to find any completed (or homework) pages that looked anything like what she had seen in this article.

And here is where the education part comes in….

I proceeded to explain to my girlfriend that Common Core is not a curriculum.  Common Core is a set of standards (or goals) that children are expected to master by a particular age (or grade level).  What she had seen sounded more like curriculum (lesson plans) than Common Core to me.  And in all honesty, if my children were bringing home pages like that, I would seriously question the district as to why they had chosen to adopt that particular curriculum.

The purpose of Common Core is to make sure that the children in ALL of America are on the same page at the same time.  I know where I live, there are many students that move around quite a bit – some from state to state and others between the two school districts.  By adopting the Common Core, the states have agreed to teach the same goals at the same grade level.  This limits the possibility of a child missing a particular skill because they lived in one place before it was taught and another place after the skill was taught.

Common Core also has another purpose.  This second purpose is one I personally find excitement for my children in as a mother.  This purpose is often referred to in teaching circles as “depth and rigor.”  We want to go deeper into subjects for students and we want to push them to the limits of their abilities.  By going deeper into subjects, we are ensuring that students have a better understanding of each topic before moving on to another topic (making sure the building blocks of math are solid before teaching things like algebra, for example).  I can remember that often times as I was going through school it seemed to me that we would just start to skim the surface of a topic (especially when it came to math) and then be pushed onto the next topic.  Why all the rapid pushing?  Because these topics were on the test and we have to make sure the kids have at least heard of it before!  I am excited about this purpose of Common Core because I know that it will give my children a better foundation of their basic skills before they are required to use them in a practical setting.  I am also excited about the idea that my children will be pushed to the limits of their abilities.  Why?  Do I want to see my children fail?  Most certainly not.  But I do want my children to know that not everything in life is easy, sometimes we have to work hard to understand or learn things.  Sometimes, it’s the failure (or the struggle) that’s the most important part!  That struggle and/or failure teaches us to keep going, to re-evaluate, to make corrections and to try again.  Those are skills that my children will need in order to overcome a myriad of problems they encounter in life – not just in math class.

I’ll be one of the first to admit that Common Core sounds like a scary thing.  It sounds intimidating (both to parents and teachers) and it sounds hard.  But, as a mother, I believe that Common Core will help my children be successful in school where I struggled the most.  I believe that Common Core will keep my children on track with their peers.  I believe that Common Core will pave the way to a different kind of standardized testing – and heaven only knows we need a different kind of standardized testing (something the exact opposite of what is done now if you want my honest opinion).  And, I believe that Common Core will help ALL students to achieve their FULL potential.  Does that mean that there won’t be problems or glitches along the way?  No.  Nothing in life is perfect.  But, I do believe that Common Core is a fantastic starting place to rebuild what our education system has become.

I hope that this has helped some of you gain a better understanding of what Common Core is and the purpose behind it.

Thanks for reading!

–Misty

 

January 27, 2014

Kylee Maughan

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