Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Welcome Back…to What?

Why Your Classroom Isn’t the Same Today as It Was a Year Ago

Since late August 2011—this time last year—we have seen a highly-successful mission to Mars, the closing of a significant portion of the United States space program, the 2012 London Olympics, wavering gas prices, an equally wavering economy, the first Mormon presidential candidate, and a host of technological upgrades, to name only a few historic events.

If you teach history, then I don’t envy you. Unless of course you’re sticking to the Byzantine Empire without really comparing it to today…but that’s a topic for another post.

Are all these changes particularly unique to this year? Haven’t we seen these kinds of changes before? The answer is yes, and it’s also no. For the sake of time, let’s focus the reasons that the answer is no.

The Common Core State Standards

Ah, yes. You’ve heard about it. You’ve read a few news articles about them. And you’ve probably heard politicians discussing them. But what do you know about them?

The Common Core State Standards are everything that No Child Left Behind should have been, with a few of NCLBs more distasteful elements sprinkled in. The Common Core Standards finally put the classroom back in teachers’ hands. We aren’t measuring rote knowledge about the Battle of Hastings and the quadratic formula—the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) came together to focus on what students can do rather than simply what they know (or, more accurately, what they can regurgitate on a single day to represent an entire year).


Don’t be scared by the whole standards things—it’s a good thing, really.

Your teachers now have more leverage and mobility to take their curriculum where they know it needs to go in order to help individuals. Teachers have standards themselves called InTASC. When CCSSO got fed up with evaluations used as punitive measures instead of as opportunities for progress, they got together with the folks at InTASC and re-created these teacher standards.

Redefinition of the Classroom

By now, parents and educators alike are quickly warming up to the idea of technology in the classroom. Safety concerns stop most of us from taking our students outside of the classroom setting itself, but the growth and pervasiveness of technology is allowing many schools this year to get creative with learning tools.

Flipped classrooms are growing in popularity, in-class technology is beginning to take hold, and America is waiting to see what their children’s teachers are going to do to answer the growing needs of your students. We have to face it—today’s tools are Wikipedia, smart phones, texting, and blu tooth. We can either drone on about William the Conqueror while our students play “Words with Friends” on their phones, or we can show our students how to turn the super computer in their pockets into valuable tools in today’s world.

The country is finally putting education back in the hands of educators, and I am excited to see where we take it.

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