I just returned from the annual International Reading Association conference, and wow. In spite of so much negative media lately around testing and reports of low teacher morale, I have to note that when you meet with these educators face-to-face, those reports seem off-kilter.
What did I hear at IRA? Lots of talk about the impacts of the Common Core State Standards initiative. To publishers and classrooms and libraries, CCSS means a shift not necessarily in content but in delivery and processing of that information. The folks who drafted these standards want to raise the bar for students and for those of us who are providing materials and instruction for those students. Components include close reading of texts, providing evidence, critical thinking in the sense that answers aren’t simply provided and exams simply rote, but rather, connections drawn and context built upon layers of learning… In short, thinking and analyzing information instead of memorizing and expelling it.
One might be inclined to say, “How are schools going to accomplish that? I thought schools were failing…” Well, perhaps they have been. But I witnessed a lot of teachers who seem eager to answer this battle cry. They want to “teach to the top” and drive things from a place of high expectations rather than low permissibility.
CCSS adopters or not, the bottom line is that teachers are still excited to help their students. Sometimes this amazes me when I stop to consider everything educators face on a daily basis. But I’m excited to help them and their students. I’m glad to offer series such as Six Questions of American History, which already dives into that push toward questioning information and really thinking about its greater impacts. And I’m looking forward to what the future may hold for the students helped by these initiatives.
From what I can ascertain, implementing CCSS is a big shift and a lot of heavy lifting. But a positive attitude goes a long way toward success, and the teachers I met at IRA have just that. Whatever our age, we can all learn from that lesson.
If you haven’t thanked a teacher lately, do!