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Cleaning Up for the Common Core


Jessica Keigan
Ever watched a reality T.V. show about hoarders? They are horrifying. Piles of magazines from multiple decades. Bedrooms filled with polyester clothing and cats. These shows always shock my system. They send me straight to my clutter to spend time determining what is worth saving and what is not.

With the impending implementation of the Common Core Standards Initiative, I feel as though I am watching a different kind of hoarding show—educational hoarders. And I have to admit I'm a part of it. Even though I know that the common standards require increased rigor and creativity, I see myself struggling to let go of that fantastic lesson plan that worked so well for that one novel that one day so long ago.

Fellow teachers, let's be honest now. Think about your classroom or educational workspace. Do you (like me) have filing cabinet drawers filled with old copies and student work? Do you have shelves filled with dusty books and binders of curriculum? Could you be an educational hoarder?

I don't believe that we have to throw all of our stuff out the window with the implementation of the common standards. Just as our students will need scaffolding to find success with the increased rigor of the new standards, we, as teachers, will need to utilize our tried and true lessons and tricks as a foundation to build from. But I'd challenge you to truly consider what best practice looks like.

View the impending changes as an opportunity to reflect. Look at the depth of the skills being assessed and consider carefully the various ways you can push your students to demonstrate their learning. Join a professional learning community, either in your school or within larger national networks. Take advantage of the fact that no matter the level of experience we have as educators, we all have the opportunity to grow with the new standards. Take the opportunity to be the voice for positive change within your department and help your peers reflect on their own practice so that there is more alignment and stronger collaboration in your teams.

Change is never easy. But is also important to embrace when it comes our way. It is often the thing we need to make sure we are doing what's best for our students. Take this chance to dig out of your piles and don't let your stash get in the way of your growth.

A Colorado native who has taught for nine years. Jessica divides her time evenly between teaching English at Horizon High School in Denver and supporting results-oriented efforts to improve Colorado's schools. She is a member of the Denver New Millennium Initiative team.

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