Sometimes the most random things inspire a new thought or a new way of thinking. That just happened to me March 4th, 2014.
Every night, I read a book to help me sleep, unless if it’s a cracking good book like Divergent which kept me up instead of proving needed rest (thanks, Jenifer Anderson!) Just before reading the book for two solid hours, I was thinking about testimony I’ve seen lately decrying Common Core and its accompanying PARCC tests from the likes of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. James Milgram, Diane Ravitch, and Mercedes Schneider. I wondered to myself, “What would I say about Common Core and PARCC?” It’s an important question that all teachers should be able to answer for themselves.
What would I say?
I would say that it’s been thirty-three years since I sat in an Algebra I class watching a magnificent teacher standing in front of an ancient chalkboard, with chalk dust appropriately sprinkled on his dark colored pants. That man held such passion for what he was doing, and I realized that I wanted that same passion in whatever I did. It was a double blessing because I also realized that teaching other students, just like he was doing, was something I wanted to do as well. In that fall of 1982 was when I knew I was going to become a teacher, and it’s greatly due to Dr. Donald Voorhies, math teacher extraordinaire and now, a dear friend. I have never wavered in those thirty-three years, though the present climate is certainly doing its best to penalize and stigmatize good teachers for resisting the folly called Common Core.
I would also say that I’ve never quite realized what I wanted to do with those students I’ve taught since 1991. I have taught every math except Geometry and every social studies class out there, so I’ve seen a wide spectrum of courses. It was only last night that I understood with clarity what my goal of teaching was: to create educated, loving human beings.
I understand wholeheartedly that the subject matter is important, and I would never shirk on teaching the specifics of any subject, but it’s what goes on WHILE teaching the class that also matters. How I interact with the students, how I set an example of appropriate behavior—molding the good, eliminating the bad—and how I craft their interactions with others, those are the things for which I live. When a student once came to me after class to pay for another student’s class fee because that student couldn’t, when a student stops to help another one whose books have just fallen, and especially when a student came to hug me after my mother had abruptly died only seventeen days after being diagnosed with cancer, it is then more than ever that I know I’m in the right profession.
“What would I say about Common Core?”
And I have news for Common Core and PARCC supporters: those things will never test how successful my students will be at that never-ending class called life. There were more test designers than teachers crafting Common Core, and it shows in its unrealistic arrangement of subject material. Those PARCC tests will never evaluate the kindness and joy that these young adults-in-training will have for life. Louisiana may still be marching to the Common Core Madness, but now that parents are becoming more aware of its inflexibility and its affinity for teaching alternative methods of solving problems as the only acceptable method, the march has begun to stall. Most importantly, it will never help me create aspects of an educated, loving human being.
And then I would thank everyone for listening attentively. It’s the polite thing to do.