Thursday, July 26, 2012

We Interrupt this summer vacation for a common core commercial

So I hit the wall and then school ended, graduation happened and I haven't blogged in a month.
I took pictures at graduation and I want to  post them, with some stories about the graduates but first I have to  alter them and that entails mastering the graphics program I bought for  $19.00  when I took a sick and tired day in April..

But I've been busy, sleeping late, fooling around with the guitar, cleaning closets and having every part of my body poked, prodded and scanned. Not sick- just suffering an advanced case of post fifty teacher- with -good -health insurance syndrome.

The last week of July arrived and I needed to  interrupt this vacation with a word from our sponsors.- our district offered  common core workshops.

It seemed like a great idea in May . The workshops, like the previews of the common core standards held promise.  Heralded as a way to bring a new approach to thinking about instruction- a structure of standards for the 21st Century, the century where every factoid is available in seconds on the smart phone everyone of us perches on our desk.

And there's also all the per session pay.

 But the week has been frustrating.  First  we looked at all these new reading and writing standards.  Then we discussed that no one actually knew how these standards would effect the assessments. And if there was any chance of forgetting the  all importance of success on the assessments - stories of  "I have my job, I don't have my job, I have my job again or maybe I'm in a real closing school  and really don't have a job," filled the room with a palpable tension as thick as the July humidity. (If you don't follow NYC teaching news, suffice it to say this has been a summer where over three thousand teachers were in jeopardy of being jostled out of positions due to the vagaries of the NCLB closing schools debacle.  In the end the the local justice system put brakes on the most outrageous scenarios, but those teachers in the schools that were scheduled for the  so called "closing of failing schools"  earlier in the  year found themselves in the ATR- the misplaced teacher pool anyway.)

We were broken up into groups to write curriculum maps.  One teacher in the room asked why the state, city, district wouldn't just provide a curriculum - like  in the good old days when teaching the history of the world was- well let's say planned out by people who knew what they were doing, (And probably paid for it too)

The answer was:
Because there is no curriculum
And the city was providing 20 hours of per session pay and all the bagels you could eat, for anyone who signed up for the week to write their own.

I sat at the wrong table.  I ended up with the kid my mother always wished on me, the one who (I greatly feared) was a  present day example of my former self.

She knew everything.  About everything.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise. All this in two years of teaching and before her twenty fifth birthday.

I wanted to punch her out.

In the end Ms Know It All and the third member of the group (younger and more inexperienced) plotted the history of the world ona  grid that included every factoid they could scrape out of an outdated scope and sequence  and outdid  each other with "Oh how cute activities" including those that involve sharing out M&Ms to represent Feudalism.and jumping around papers to represent the geography of Japan.

Then they looked at the common core standards and stuck an appropriate one on their adorably cute activities.

So much for developing a new curriculum to meet the needs of a world with information at our fingertips.

For me, the frustration of the week was summed up by the young man in the back who asked about how  students  by the end of grade 10 will read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity based independently and proficiently(sic), when the could hardly read at all.  "Its like they're stuck in a revolving door to nowhere," he observed.

Tomorrow its over.
I'll sign my timesheet, visit my old paraprofessional, who lives right by the workshop

And return to summer vacation.