In the 1980s and 1990s I was fortunate enough to be chosen for a number of National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminars for secondary teachers. On a university campus, a group of 15 or so secondary teachers met for 4 to 6 weeks with a university professor to “read texts worth reading” and “answer questions worth answering,” to echo the mantra of the Common Core ELA authors.
From these seminars I brought back to my classroom important new texts to teach (Achebe’s Things Fall Apart), fresh understandings of old favorites (Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), new approaches to teaching Shakespeare, and a better understanding of how to bring close reading into my classroom.
So when I read Stephen Chiger’s blog post about the opportunity created by the Common Core State Standards to treat teachers as intellectuals, I could appreciate the value of doing so based on my own experience. Chiger says:
“A learning community that fails to nurture the intellects of those who serve as its pillars becomes stagnant and divorces teachers from the fundamental value of being lifelong students. Worse yet, it models an adult life jarringly out of concert with the drumbeat of college preparation we sound each day.”
But for me, it was more than just keeping my teacher mind engaged and active, it was also the direct benefits to my classroom. I wish this change in nurturing teachers would come to pass.
Now, I was alerted to Chiger’s work by an article in Education Week Teacher entitled “Can the Common Core Redefine Teaching?” Of course, the answer to that is no. The implementation of the Common Core may create an atmosphere where teacher professional development is redefined and we enact the wisdom of whoever envisioned the secondary seminars program and the wisdom embodied in Chiger’s blog. However, it is more likely that in implementing the Common Core, districts and states will offer more of the same curriculum development and instructional practices-based professional development that will be the “same old same old.” Again, the teacher will be the one who must be busy doing rather than the one who has time to stop and think.
Would love to hear your thoughts on how the Common Core will affect teaching, so drop a comment below and become part of the conversation.
John Wood is a career educator and a Senior Curriculum Specialist at NWEA. He received his Masters in Education from Harvard University, and was a teacher of English, Language Arts and Math at the high school level. John also served as principal of Cambridge-South Dorchester (Maryland) High School.
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