Now imagine taking your child to the doctor. The doctor talks to you, they talk to your child. You are comfortable that they understand what is going on with your child. They explain to you that there is an infection. They want to move quick and believe antibiotics given in a concentrated form will be best to help your child. You ask some questions and the doctor is confident and knowledgeable and you are also feeling that this is the best way to treat your child. And so you agree. Not only agree, but hold your child down for those awful shots as they scream. It will be OK you say and you believe it.
Implementing the Common Core can be like this. We change our style, and we change our rooms, we give kids computers and pull away from textbooks. We allow kids to struggle and problem solve, and encourage them to work together without calling this cheating. The parents are used to the books and direct instruction. Kids quietly in rows. "Why is my kid struggling?" "Why do they have to work so hard?" I was asked this question last year, and I had wished for a better answer for the question at the time. Just like watching your kid getting a shot, and not knowing why.... You will have parent anarchy in your schools without communication.
There is a better way. We need to communicate with parents, students, and administrators. If you believe that this is a better way to learn; to allow kids to discover and understand, not just hear and repeat. To allow kids to struggle and succeed, not just finish a worksheet. To allow kids opportunity to be better than they believed was possible, not just receive an A. To facilitate because we believe that kids are also great teachers. To empower kids with responsibility for their learning. We must explain that to parents, students, and administration in a way that is meaningful to them.
Some steps to help.
Do this early and often with parents.My principal explains to incoming parents in the spring that learning will be different. Assessment will be different. She tells them about the new curriculum and gives it a name. This gives them time to process this information. I will then revisit it at open house. Quickly, but powerfully. Not apologetic, but strong, because it is not the Common Core that I put my faith in, but a better way of teaching and learning. I believe that this is a better way to prepare our students for anything they go after in life.
Daily with students.Students need to understand the big goal. They need to know that you believe in them. I also do not want them thinking that this class is all fluff and no fluency. There are still times when we will do "practice" on paper. I never want them to think that this class will only be presented in one way. (I do mention this at open house as well to help parents understand the format of the class and to reassure them that their kids will be learning.)
Continue to Communicate.I have created a Google Site to communicate with my students and parents. If a concept continues into another unit, I share that too. Parents need to know if their child is meeting the standards. It can be frustrating to worry that your child does not understand something fully to find out later that it will be addressed in depth in Unit 9. Share these ideas and understandings with parents. The more they know, the more they will hold their children accountable. Because just like the shot, they will know that your class is good for them. They see the big picture.
As Far As Administration...I am fortunate to have a principal that gets these ideas. She is supportive of teachers' efforts and encourages innovation. But, as I have discovered through conversations with many of you, my readers, this is not very common. Sad and discouraging. This hurdle may be the highest one for you to get over. First, you MUST talk to your administrators about your beliefs. Set up a time to meet with them. Explain your stance and be sure to talk mostly about the kids, not yourself or anyone else. What they gain if you do, and possibly more powerful, what they loose if you don't. Finally, close the sale. Ask them for their support. This will be hard. It is scary, what if they say no, but what if they say yes? This is a huge victory!
If they say no, you have your work cut out for yourself. You will need to make choices that I am glad I do not have to make. One good option is to begin changing individual lessons to reflect your beliefs while keeping the curriculum whole. remember the same lesson on paper can be taught countless ways. What changes can you make to what you have been mandated that will allow you begin turning your classroom into what you desire for your students. But again, always prepare your students first. Communication is key. "Tomorrow's lesson will look different! Be ready to think and have a great time!" with a big smile on your face would be a great closer the day before. And be sure to begin the class the next day in a similar fashion.
A short story.Once upon a time I had this wonderful student teacher. She was thoughtful and smart, and she always came up with these amazing lessons! She stepped in quite early in her student teaching to cover my classes while I was at a conference. Before I left we talked through her lesson, she was so excited. She had created a wonderful lesson plan helping students understand the order of operations. She had stayed late, setting up the room, and getting everything just perfect for "her" students.
But, sadly it did not go well. After debriefing with her, we realized that she was so excited that she just jumped right into her lesson, which was nothing like what they were used to. The "regular" teacher was not there, the lesson was weird, they did not know what was going on or what was coming next. They felt so caught off guard that there was anarchy. This may be why so many teachers say, "I tried that and it did not go well AT ALL."
Finally.Telling people what is happening makes people feel safe. As they say "Knowledge is Power!" It prevents fear. Fear can get ugly in all of it's forms. Be sure to share with your students, parents, and administration what is going on in your class and why. It makes a world of difference.
Do you have ideas of how to calm nerves and make change easier? Please share below. So many people have contacted me with this type of concern it would be helpful to get as many tips as possible!