As I start thinking about the 2013-2014 school year I find myself caught between two powerful forces in education: innovation and legislation.
My passion is providing my students with authentic, rich learning experiences. I have seen how captivating project based learning can be and how technology integration enhances the level of student engagement. I have seen my students grow exponentially when I focus on teaching key 21st Century skills like collaboration, communication, critical and creative thinking. Deeper learning takes place when I team teach with colleagues from different disciplines and when I provide time for my students to follow their curiosity, they go to places on their own learning journeys that I could never have imagined. This kind of teaching is organic and exciting and often messy. Failure and frustration litter the path but are critical components of wisdom acquisition. I find myself wondering how I will combine this style of teaching with the adoption of Common Core Standards and whether or not they are even compatible.
Like many educators, schools and districts I am still grappling with the new standards, trying to figure out how they will impact pedagogy and methodology. The new standards come with great promise of a focus on developing critical thinking skills and collaborative, reflective learning, but with any standardized testing there always lurks the fear that we are fostering standardized students. I am sure that there will be much professional development time devoted to the roll-out of this latest reform wave, aimed at helping teachers serve their students well. But is it possible to teach to a set of mandated, static standards while still fostering a dynamic culture of learning? I guess that’s up to me.
Ultimately, I will do what the only thing I really know how to do. I will focus on learning about my students, their needs, their passions, their learning styles and try to accommodate them as best I can. Despite innovate teaching practices and “new” standards, after 23 years of teaching my charge remains the same: foster meaningful relationships with my students, nurture them, let them know they matter, empower them and try to ensure that every child has a rock star experience every day in my classroom.