Thursday, July 4, 2013

Common Core, Curriculum Units, and Common Sense

Good teachers, effective teachers, matter much more than particular curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or "proven programs" 
(Allington & Johnston, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1999; Duffy, 1997; Pressley, et al, 2001; Sanders, 1998; Taylor, Pearson, Clark & Walpole, 2000).

I am a sucker for creative advertising and marketing. 
If this "never before seen on TV and can only be ordered within the next 17 hours and 4.5 minutes" product promises to melt away the body fat, plump the lips, grow the plants, whiten the bathroom grout, or bring shine back to the hair, I'm all over it. I can so easily get sucked in to Consumer-ville.

And I have cabinets full of stuff that made promises and didn't deliver. 
And these companies have my money. Dang it.

Fortunately, over the years, I have tamed my impulsivity to purchase the hot-off-the-market product that promises the skinniest body, greenest plants, or whitest teeth and bathroom grout...... with common sense

I've learned....

A fat busting pill in a bottle won't make me skinny. 
I have to work at getting my body healthy. 
I make wise decisions to exercise, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, drink water and watch portion sizes.  

A bag of fertilizer won't miraculously grow a garden full of flowers. 
I have to work at growing that garden.
I make informed decisions about when and how much to water, which plant needs an extra bit of fertilizer, and how to prune the stalks and stems.

A container of whitening agent isn't going to clean the bathroom grout by itself.
I have to work at keeping that bathroom clean.
I make timely decisions about when to clean so that the shower tile isn't a grimy mess. I practice my grout cleaning technique over and over, so that I can be both effective and efficient in my cleaning.

Unfortunately, we are in a time in education where it feels like the Common Core and the hot off the press current curriculum units have plowed their way ahead of our common sense.
And's up to us to make sure we don't allow ourselves to simply become curriculum consumers. It's imperative that our common sense and knowledge of best practice is at the forefront of the work with do with children, colleagues, and all those invested in preparing future generations for a world that looks very different than it looked when we were in school.

Wouldn't you agree that we want the children in our classrooms to become forever learners? We want the children in our classrooms to be questioners, creators, innovators, and critical thinkers.  We want the children in our classrooms to enter the workforce and world as autonomous, independent, thoughtful, and reflective human beings.
So if this is what we want for our students, then this is what we have to be as their teachers. We have to practice what we preach. We can no longer be mindless consumers of box after box of new curriculum materials, without making wise decisions in how to use those materials based on the learners in our classrooms. 

We cannot just accept the curriculum sets, the binders, the online resources at face value. Companies and publishers, and authors sometimes throw around words like best practice, grade level specific, and the classic new line....common core aligned in the name of making a buck or two....or three million. 
Don't get me wrong. There are lots of amazing, well-researched professional resources out there for us to learn from.... but not to imitate word for word. It's our job to innovate, not imitate.
Do not let Unit One, Lesson 12, page 3 trump what you know about the children you work with every day. 
It's imperative that we read, we think, we question, we create, we innovate, and we teach for and learn with the children in our classrooms, using the supports and the resources we've been given wisely and well. 

Let's use our knowledge and our common sense to make wise teaching decisions, informed teaching decisions, and timely teaching decisions for the forever learners in our care.

Happy Independence Day! 
Ann Marie

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Authentically Yours....

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.(page 49)” 

I am a declarer, a startera goal setter, a wanna be a socially networked, literate, super human educator.

I run from discipline. I procrastinate. I perseverate. I think and plan more than I produce.

I declared to be the #1000giftsofsummer blogger who would document every day's gifts in photos over the entire summer. 
Yes I did.
Three days of great photos, several days pass, and then I'm so many days out of the new blogging routine, I'm onto creating a mosaic of June photographs with zero writing to go with the pictures. 
I'm grateful for the gifts of summer, but I'm so over photographing and blogging about them on July 2. 

I started the Couch to 5K routine (for the 5th time this year). On the outside I am new running shoes and the Nike Fuel Band and the tracker of calories on My Fitness Pal app.

But underneath I'm the resort to eating baking chocolate because there's nothing sweet in the house, 
the I'll start tomorrow because I'm already at 3,200 calories after the frozen margarita with salt and a basket of chips 
and by the running shoes gave me a huge heel blister.

I set the goal to work all of June on workshops, book writing, presentations, and new school year preparation... and then have July to relax, not set a morning alarm, do exactly as I pleased in this fantastic summer month.
Great goal. Great big fat unrealistic goal.
I meet with my new fourth grade team in exactly one month, and I have thirty unread fourth grade novels stacked in my bedroom, a reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and word study curriculum to read and learn, writing to finish, and four workshops to create. All before school starts on August 7th.

Socially networked. I'm 90% stalking and retweeting the social media gurus who've already done the hard work.
Literate.  Sometimes I click "read" on Goodreads even if I'm only on page 18.
Super Human. What does that even mean?

What I've realized as I write this post is this:

I am not great at blogging regularly, exercising daily, working responsibly, or even living realistically.

But I am passionate, reflective, honest, growing, hardworking when I want to be (at the very last second), and loved. I've learned that being me is the best person I can be. I'm thankful to have strengths that I can use and share with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. I'm also thankful for the struggles that I can be so very okay with admitting.
Happy Summer Everyone!

Authentically yours,
Ann Marie