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


  1. What an incredibly thoughtful post that speaks to teachers being selective . . .

    Lines that I loved

    "Do not let Unit One, Lesson 12, page 3 trump what you know about the children you work with every day."

    "We (should not) 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."

    "It's our job to innovate, not imitate."

    My thoughts: What an important reminder that we need to remember that we need to let children drive our instruction, we teach children, not curriculum.

  2. You early morning reflections on the common core look great. Nice post on the new initiate. It offers a lot of great insights!

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