The responses we get from proponents of common core seem to follow a script. There is never anything new in them that might better inform us or shed light on what they are really thinking. It is so frustrating… but it shouldn’t be surprising. Following the script seems to be another common part of common core.

A teacher shared her observations with us about what it is like to be in the new common core aligned classroom. Though not every single school approaches the new curriculum this way, we hear from many teachers who have had similar experiences. Apparently the free market has already determined the best teaching methods, so we are now at the phase where all students get those same fabulous methods. Is there any room left for creativity? It doesn’t look like it.

I just have to rant and let you know what’s really going on in our classrooms. I’m so frustrated with these stupid laws.

It all started Tuesday. I was told to get a sub for Wed afternoon, as my team and I needed to be away from our students to do our “pacing guides that align to Common Core.” Pacing guides are what we are teaching, when and how for the next nine weeks. We are expected to teach the same thing the same way on the same day, because Common Core expects it. So, I had to scramble to find a quality sub for the next afternoon. The afternoon arrived (after I had to write detailed sub plans) and the three of us met in a corner in the LMC to write our pacing guide. We chose to write for math, since our math is CC aligned and our teacher manuals are very scripted. Not to mention the pacing guide is right there for us to use every day. It includes every piece of material we could need. While basically copying the pacing guide from the math teacher’s manual, I got angry. I thought this is the MOST ridiculous waste of time – the guide is already done and we already paid over $1M for the manuals, which include the guides. I was angry that we were taking more money by being away from our students (detrimental to student learning, too) and having subs (at the cost of $120/day, $90/half-day). As a financially responsible taxpayer, this did not sit well with me. I wonder what the general public would have thought?

Anyway, as we sat there rewriting what was already there, I got angry. Finally, I said enough was enough and went to the principal to ask her what in the  world we were doing. She said she wanted us to do ELA, not math. (Insert eye roll here.) I asked her again why? All our teacher’s manuals had the pacing guides in them, both math and ELA, and a team of district employees wrote a guide for us to use. Why were we doing this again?? She said so she knew we were following them, as written. We were to rewrite the ELA pacing guides according to how we understood them and how we, as a team, would be using them. I told her we would be using the guides as given in the $1M+ teacher’s manuals (of which we have six manuals, 4 assessment books, 1 blackline master book and 1 PBIS book). She didn’t like my response and told me to go write with my team.

So, three hours later, we ended up with a 12-page pacing guide that we literally COPIED from the teacher’s manual assigned to that quarter. It was the biggest waste of time and money.

Through all this, I found out my colleagues are using the program as it’s written, whereas I was using the concepts to meet the standard but bringing in my own tried and true teaching techniques/materials. I was trying to maintain my art, they were following the script. As a side note, one of the teacher’s is a 25+ year veteran, the other is a first year teacher. I went to my principal again — asked her if we had to use all the materials from our curriculum or if we could supplement while following the concepts/skills/standards. We’d be teaching the same standards but teaching it differently. No, she said. Use the given materials (books (actually “anchor texts”), vocab cards, “community texts” (student textbooks), leveled readers and decodables) and do not stray from the program. I literally asked her, “No creativity?” She responded, “As much as the curriculum allows.”

As well, related to this, I received my first evaluation the day before. I was knocked down a notch because I was not teaching the Common Core script during my ELA observation. I told my principal I was teaching the concept and skill, I was just using a different text because the kids were interested in that topic instead of the one provided to me by the purchased curriculum.

I seriously need a new job. I cannot be a teacher any more. I cannot, in good conscience, teach like this. My students are bored silly and cry because the want to read their books and learn what they want to learn about. I tried that and was told, point blank, no. This is not teaching. This is factory work. I did not go to school for an advanced degree and am not currently in school for an even more advanced (EdD) degree to pump out widgets. I cannot do this.

This district is using Journeys, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt product. The curriculum includes four assessments given at the end of the unit, each week. They assess on grammar, phonics, comprehension, spelling and vocabulary skills. These assessments are Common Core aligned and are fill-in-the-bubble tests. Each assessment is 3 pages long. Every week, the teachers are expected to cover a 12-page reading test IN MATH. They also assess fluency, math computation and math concepts. In this school they are required to record all these scores in two different places, plus keep paper records in case there is ever a discrepancy in the computer program numbers.

Students are data generators and teachers are glorified data collectors. Isn’t that what you thought school was all about?

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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