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Standards: A View From My Classroom

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Natalie McCutchen, a Hope Street Group 2013-2014 fellow, teaches 7th grade Math at Franklin Simpson Middle School in the Simpson County School District.

"Math is hard!" "I've never been good at math!" "I hate math!" As a math teacher, I have heard these words uttered repeatedly by my students and one of my top priorities has always been to help my students learn to enjoy math. In order to make this a reality, I have been on a constant quest to find the right strategies and resources to make math more enjoyable and fun for my students. While on this quest, I began to realize that getting my students to like math should not be my focus, but rather getting my students to love learning.

A love of learning is a crucial element to the overall success of any student; it will give students the capacity to persevere and the tenacity to overcome. A love of learning does not happen by chance or overnight, but rather it is nurtured by dedicated teachers, supportive administration, and an invested community. In order to create a love of learning, teachers must have a set of standards that creates a consistent framework to teach critical thinking; teachers need the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS).

Implementing KCAS has been a positive experience for my students. There is no more of the mile long and inch deep mentality when it comes to the math standards, but rather my students have the opportunity to delve into the standards and make real connections with the content which lay the foundation for my students to develop problem solving skills. By utilizing KCAS in my classroom, I have been able to move away from one-size-fits all instruction to instruction that is differentiated based on the unique needs of my students. This has lead to more personalized learning where my students are the directors of their own learning. This new perspective on learning has turned my classroom from an environment where I disseminate information to an environment where my students explore, discover, and investigate.

Since the implementation of KCAS, my students do not come to my classroom to learn math, they simply come to learn. The KCAS provides me the tools I need to develop a love of learning in my students. A love of learning that will allow my students to explore content in new and meaningful ways. A love of learning that will allow my students to be fully engaged and to delve deeper into the content in order to create rich connections. A love of learning that will turn the most reluctant math student into a motivated student and a bored student into an engaged student. A love of learning that can only be accomplished and sustained by the appropriate standards, the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

Shortly after the start of the school year, one of my former students presented me with a letter. In the letter, she expressed how she had always been afraid to speak up, how she never believed in herrself, and had never liked math. She discussed how all that changed because I showed her that she had something valuable to offer. She spoke of how she now was more confident, was willing to speak up and try new things, and that she now liked math.

I had a former student who was so smart and capable of doing amazing work, but he just chose not to apply himself. I stayed on this student all the time, pushing him, motivating him, and correcting him when necessary. There were many days that I wondered if what I did made a difference. At the beginning of the school year, a teacher handed me a note. She said she told her students to write a note to a past teacher and she would deliver them. The students filled out the cards anonymously, but once I read the note, I instantly knew who had written it. The note simply read, "Thanks for pushing me to work hard and for never giving up on me!"

I am sure many teachers can echo these stories across the state of Kentucky. But stories like these will not take place without dedicated teachers, supportive administration, or an invested community. Stories like these will not take place without teachers having the appropriate standards by which to create classrooms that foster a love of learning. The KCAS provide such a vehicle for teachers. The KCAS allow teachers to create learning opportunities for their students that will develop a life-long love of learning.

The KCAS have enabled me to move my students from "Math is hard!" to "Math is challenging!", from "I've never been good at math!" to "I can do math!", from "I hate math!" to "Math is fun!" But most importantly, the KCAS have allowed me to create in each of my students a genuine love of learning.

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