I have some notes to myself about topicss and ideas, but none of them really feels right today. So, as often happens, I dove into my Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what friends and colleagues (who are often the same folks) are thinking. A couple of things mashed together and, voila!, I think I know where this is heading. It might be a little messy as I generally write these post late in the day after the ideas have simmered a bit. But here goes.
We spent some time yesterday at Petroglyph National Monument lookng at markings on stone that had little meaning for us because we did not have a context for them. We did not create the symbols, and therefore their meaning was unclear. They were isolated marks. That is piece #1 and would serve nicely as a metaphor for what is happening in curriculum "reform" across the country. Not just CCSS, but all of the other things being offered as a result of the new standards: programs galore offering to increase comprehension, guide close reading, develop vocabulary, and probably cure the common cold. But these pieces are out of meaningful context, in this case the classroom.
The second piece that mashes into this comes from an article in the NY Times this morning about a new book, LEAN IN, written by the COO of Facebook. She is talking about how to achieve in business as well as personal life and the slogan LEAN IN reminded me of MSNBC's LEAN FORWARD. Maybe the happy medium is LEAN TOWARD, MOVE TOWARD? How do these pieces come together? Here is where it gets messy, so you might want to lean away from the computer in case it spews.
I think we MOVE TOWARD understanding (comprehension is just one level of understanding). I think we have our own pace, too. Some just get it right away. Others (yours truly included) need more time to proces). And for me, seeing the big picture is essential. I have a hard time with pieces (like those petroglyphs) particularly when they are out of context. I need context to make meaning. This is, in part, where I struggle with CCSS. All I can see are pieces, fragments. Here are the standards, here are exemplar texts, here are model frameworks (well, we are still waiting for these for the most part). I read the blogs and articles and I still do not see the whole picture.
What I want to see is a complete "unit" if you will. I want to see Coleman or Pimentel go into a middle school classroom for a semester and show me how it all fits together. I want to see them take the standards, write the new curriculum they insist is demanded by these better standards, pull together all the disparate elements and materials and teach. Then, I want to see the assessment results and what they actually demonstrate (not if scores went up or down, just what the score actually tell us about college and career readiness).
I want other things, too. I want the class size to be similar to what we see happening in the poorest of schools (let's say 35). I want the kids to be just part of the population and not hand selected (though if I could I would select the kids who are the ones CCSS argeus they are trying to help). I do not want there to be assistants, aids, nada (well, maybe a coupe of university folks like me doing observations might be good). I do not want to see any sort of teaching to a test or measurement. I want them to have bus duty, hall duty, lunch duty, and all of the other extra things teachers do.
Because I think that standards are like the petroglyphs. And teachers are not only LEANING IN, they are LEANING TOWARD kids and their needs. They are LEANING AWAY from that one size fits all mentality that seems to possess "reformers." So I want to MOVE TOWARD a more sane approach. Every time I hear a politician (and some are already lining up for 2016 elections) talk about choice and vouchers and standards and scores and value added, I want them immediately consigned to a classroom for a semester. I want their value added-ness assessed. If they hold themselves out as experts, then let's hold their feet to the fire, shall we?
In the meantime, SpeakLoudly and take Spring Break to refill your reservoirs of energy and enthusiasm, and genuine care and concern for kids. SpeakLoudly and take some time for YOU. Wo knows what might spew forth when it is over. Now, off to see Georgia O'Keefe's museum. A day of immersion in color and light and creativity: that is a perfect classroom!