“Common Core” Insanity

I am a woman/mother/teacher’s aide on the cusp of entering into a career in education, and I’m scared to death.  I’d like to share with you my personal thoughts on the new standards of learning known as Common Core.  I have many friends who are educators, and have been for years, and I’m anxious for and receptive to any feedback you may have.

I will begin by stating honestly that I have not done my homework as to the legislative and instructional aspects of Common Core; but what I do bring to the table is a firsthand, classroom observation of what I see is happening in this vortex of insanity.  As a child we were taught that 2+2=4.  We learned this at the skilled hands of our dedicated teachers and through repetition and memorization of numbers and how they operate.  In today’s classroom not only does your child have to answer that 2+2=4, but also is required to show approximately three different ways they came to that conclusion.  It involves number sense, picture skills, and complex thinking.  Your child may state on his test that 4 is the correct answer, but if he is unable to show the varying ways he came to his conclusion he can actually be counted as wrong on that test question.

I have withheld commenting publicly on my opinion because I was fearful that there may be repercussions in doing so.  After I was given the task of subjecting students to a “practice test” there is simply no way I can sit in good conscience and hold my tongue.  I am an aide in a special education classroom at a wonderful school.  The staff there love these children and desire nothing more than to see them succeed and achieve everything possible.  I read through the ridiculously-worded instructions to my little group.  Instructions that for children in the 3rd grade included words such as “partition” and asked questions that even I struggled through to understand the exact meaning of what the test creators were looking for as an answer.  We are allowed only to read the directions as written and to read the test questions for our students.  There were two separate occasions that I had to literally fight back tears as I was looking at their confused little faces and responses of “I don’t understand”.  It was heartbreaking.  I am a 43-year-old college graduate and on some of the questions even I didn’t understand.  After I’d read the entire test and my sweet little students had struggled through the Greek instructions I was trying to recite with a smile, a little boy looked at me and said, “I guess I’m just stupid.  I don’t understand what they’re saying.”  Oh… it pained my heart.  Our role as educators is to explain and attempt to make what seems difficult less difficult.  After class ended I assured that sad little face that he wasn’t stupid.  That even Miss Amanda thought the test was hard.

I have a veteran teacher in my classroom whose opinion I greatly value.  Once the room cleared I asked her opinion on the topic at hand.  She replied with a very wise response- “Children have always learned the same way.  Some are fast learners and some are slower.  That’s never going to change.”  Educators that I have spoken to in the past few weeks all seem to agree that these changes are bringing frustration to the children and the teacher’s as well.  Isn’t there some group of teacher’s already formed who are working toward voicing opposition to the Common Core standards of learning?  Isn’t there some group with their car already gassed up ready to take a trip to Nashville to protest this travesty?  There needs to be.

I am about to enter into an educational program which will result in my attaining a Master’s Degree as well as a teaching certificate.  I’ve been told that this is a difficult time to try to enter into education with all of these unrealistic goals being set for our students as well as our teachers- teachers who in my opinion are completely overworked and underpaid, but no one goes into education for the money.  That’s left for the doctors, lawyers, athletes and reality tv stars.  An educator is a person who will shape your child’s mind for no other reason than they love what they do and they truly love those kids.

My hope is that the educators out there will stick it out and combine their voices.  We should let it be known that this is a problem.  Perhaps the people who designed these test questions should be asked to come into a classroom of 3rd graders and say out loud there unrealistic desired results.  Maybe then they would see the damage being done in making children feel “stupid” at school.  Children who feel they can’t make the cut become unmotivated and drop out.  Surely we don’t want to be rearing a country full of drop-outs.

As a mother I’ve gone to my own children and simply asked them to do their best.  I’ve asked that they leave no blanks on any test.  Even if they just attempt an answer that will reflect better than leaving a blank space.  What I’d like to say to them is that if I were taking the test myself I’d be tempted to throw a big “WTH” in most of those spaces.

I’ll do my research.  I’ll find out what I need to know and who I need to talk with about this.  Anyone wanting to join this rural teacher’s bandwagon is more than welcome.  I’ll just ask that you be able to answer one question for me- offering three different ways you came to your answer.  Absurdity.

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