Although we originally stayed out of the Common Core conversation for fear that we would look like we were profiteering from this major initiative, many of the schools that we were currently working with asked us for help in making the shift to the Common Core.
So we dived into understanding the standards and the major instructional shifts that they demanded and quickly realized that we had already been teaching teachers how to do most of what was demanded by the Common Core. For instance, we had been teaching teachers for years how to unpack standards and develop more rigorous and coherent units. And, we had offered several strategies for selecting more rigorous materials.
Instead of inventing something new, we simply showed our school partners how to use what they were already doing to unpack the state standards in order to unpack and teach the Common Core standards. Their relief and the ease with which teachers started to make the transition was so compelling that we started getting calls from others to show them how to do the same thing.
We’ve spent the last 10 months working with districts and schools across the US showing them how to make the transition to the Common Core and implement the new standards with fidelity and we’ve seen some really powerful transformations as a result. In fact, we’ve been having a lot of fun with it and it has really renewed our passion for what we do.
If it seems weird to you that we and many of our clients are having a ball with the Common Core, if you are currently in the midst of transitioning to the CCSS implementation and your process feels confusing, hard, or overwhelming. If the process just isn’t fun for you, if you still don’t understand the Common Core standards and the instructional shifts they require or you’re so overwhelmed by the abundance of information about CCSS that you don’t know where to start. If CCSS implementation feels anything but energizing or fun, if it feels overwhelming, confusing, and like a lot of hard work, there is hope.
Although I was skeptical about the standards at first, I have spent the last 4-5 months studying them and see real potential for transformation. In fact, we’ve seen that as schools begin to make the shifts demanded by the standard, teachers are reconnecting to their passion for teaching, lessons are becoming much more interesting and engaging for students, and leaders are developing real clarity around their work and how to move their schools forward. People feel real excitement about teaching again and teachers are teaching with more passion and focus than they have had in years. They feel empowered and motivated and their having a lot of fun.
Implementing the Common Core doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to suck the life out of your teaching. In fact, we have had the opposite experience. We’ve found that the process of unpacking the standards and looking critically at how we plan and deliver instruction can actually reconnect you to your passion for teaching and reenergize your instructional leadership.
Here are just three examples of what we’ve seen in just the last two weeks:
- Principals and instructional coaches in our leadership cohorts are genuinely excited about transforming their schools. One of our Mindsteps coaches recently told me that after the first cohort meeting, you could see the relief on the leaders’ faces. They were so happy to finally have a framework and a direction and many of them have since written to tell us how grateful they are that they finally understand how to implement the Common Core with fidelity. Now that they understand the leader’s role in implementing CCSS and now that they have the tools to do so, they are developing implementation plans, conducting gap analyses, and finding ways to get teachers on board so that they can move their schools forward. They are on fire right now and are actively moving their schools forward towards real instructional reform.
- A new teacher workshop I recently gave, the teachers were so excited to learn in how to unpack the standards and plan rigorous units for their students that they stayed for an extra hour after the workshop was over asking questions and working on their plans.. They told me that they hadn’t learned how to plan effectively in their teacher preparation programs. Several have since written that they didn’t know that they were allowed to teach that way. They came to the workshop drained but they left with new energy and focus.
- We’ve been coaching teams of teachers in unpacking the standards. Every single time, teachers start out skeptical and every single time, they leave the room so excited to see the possibilities for their teaching and their students. One teacher finished her first CCSS-aligned unit and declared “this is POWERFUL!.” Another teacher looked at me and said, “I didn’t know that I could teach this way.” A third finished his unit and exclaimed, “Now THIS is teaching.”
Over and over again, we are seeing teachers and instructional leaders renew their passion for teaching as a result of spending the time unpacking Common Core standards and engaging in real conversations about what we teach and why we teach it. Rather than treat the standards like another burden, another fad, another thing to do, why not treat them as a great opportunity to reconnect with your passion, a fabulous chance to engage in conversations about what’s really important, and a great way to bring real and lasting reform to you school?
Over the next few months we will be posting several resources to help you do just that. In the meantime, check out this month’s TIP Sheet (available to newsletter subscribers only) on the top 5 Do’s and Don’ts of CCSS implementation. And, if you are interested in how to unpack the standards and use them to plan rigorous units check out this quick tutorial, or contact us to schedule one of our customized workshops or cohorts for your school or district.