Common Core Values

Common core VALUES (not standards), please…

Let’s start talking common core values, please. My colleagues, my students, their parents, my own children-they are not “standard”. Of course, this is no surprise to anyone who is serious about education and has done it for any length of time, or to anyone who has children of their own. But despite what professionals in the field know about the job they do and what it can require; despite what parents know about their own children; despite what is sometimes even known by those attempting to turn an education obligation into market opportunities: efforts to standardize rage on.

Full disclosure before I continue: I am a teacher. Also, I belong to a union. In addition, I am president of our local’s association. But beyond that, I am a man-child that grew up wild. I came relatively late to teaching and had a variety of work experiences that started very young, but I ended up where I was meant to be. Enjoyed life and a variety of experiences unafraid, and somehow still: I ended up marrying the prettiest woman in the world and having three incredibly bright girls. Not only do I today take my obligation to my students seriously, I take my obligation to my wife and daughters deadly serious. My wife has promised to visit me in prison should it ever come to that- and she makes damn good cookies. So because of my life experiences and because of how I grew up, I bring to parenting and teaching an approach and a perspective that is not standard, and I proudly defend an endeavor and a profession that can never truly be standardized because “standard” is such a foolish expectation when you talk about individuals, teams, humans in general. Within the endeavor of educating the public there needs to be flexibility and choice- guided by the students’ needs, by parents’ priorities, and by capable professionals from the wide variety of disciplines prepared to serve a wide variety of student types.

So unions, protecting those professionals and the possibilities they bring to learners, promoting that wide variety that will lead to dynamic groups of future citizens, are not the problem. The real problem comes in the awkward education-reform narrative of “standards” combined with “choice”: their standards; their tests; their “choice”. And while the narrative is woven on blogs and in the press that carries the anti-public schools message, it gets a little Orwellian. To paraphrase:

If you oppose the attack on teachers and their unions then you oppose parents and children.

Using high-stakes test is the way to know how much a child has learned, and what value is provided in the education students are receiving.

So, in honor of Orwell, Poe, The Hardy Boys, Alice Walker, Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare, The Big red barn in the great green field, Stephen King, Encyclopedia Brown…and so many many more than I could ever or did ever count: let’s talk about the value of reading with children and for children from day 1 (and before, if possible). Let’s drop the talk of standardized market demands to place value on humans and talk human value. I have more than this one, but this is where it begins:

Common Core Value 1: Encouraging children to read, think, talk and Sing.
1A.1 Read in front of them. Read to them. Watch them read. Ask them about what they read. Listen to them read to you. Read together. Practice reading together passing the book back and forth.

1A.2 When they are tiny, read with them on your lap, reclined in a chair and with your child in the spot between your arm and your side, with your child’s head just under your shoulder and the book where you can both see.

1A.3 When they are tiny, point to the words that sound really familiar-the ones used frequently when you speak. Point to illustrations that go with the words. Point to and name familiar and interesting things in the illustrations and ask them “Where is the …. “, then have them point it out.

1A.4 Have bookshelves full of books- various books. Magazines too-have a magazine subscription or two if you can afford to (Highlights, National Geographic for kids, etc) and if you can’t afford subscriptions-get issues second-hand to keep around… Limit TV. time and video game time.

1A.5 Listen to a wide variety of music. Tell stories, sing songs, and expect “lights out” by 8:30…but stretch it ‘til 9 if they are reading quietly.

Good readers become great thinkers.

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