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Common-Core Messaging 101: Come See My Classroom


Jessica Cuthbertson

I used to believe that my workspace was a classroom. I used to believe that my job was to teach English/language arts. And I used to believe that my primary responsibility was to teach—period.

While on the surface all of these statements are technically true, I no longer hold these beliefs.

Instead, I believe I work in a learning laboratory, not a classroom. I believe I teach human beings, not English/language arts. I believe my primary responsibility isn't to teach; it is to learn and facilitate the learning of others.

For some, this may seem like semantics. But for me, these beliefs drive everything I do. Experience, reflection, and implementing the Common Core State Standards have changed the landscape of teaching and learning for me.

When it comes to core beliefs, semantics matter.

And when it comes to the common core, what teachers say and believe matters to others as well. Do I believe we have a responsibility to inform parents about teaching and learning in the common core era? Absolutely. But beyond this, I believe we have a greater obligation to open our doors wider than ever and let them see for themselves. I believe we need fewer classrooms and more learning laboratories. I believe it is our role to be ambassadors for student learning, showcasing what the standards look like in action.

It's fascinating to see what adolescent readers can do when supported with close-reading strategies. It's far more interesting to read a writer's argument, informed by research and critical analysis, than it is to read a formulaic or decontextualized piece of writing. And it's hard to envision what "text complexity" looks like without listening in or participating in a discussion about a complex text.

When you confront the mythologies about the standards and strip away all of the political rhetoric, you are left with a document. A set of high, clear, vertically aligned expectations that outline what all students should know and be able to do to become college and career ready.

The standards are not a secret, so we shouldn't keep them from parents. In fact, we should be clear about what they are and even clearer about what they are not. They are not a curriculum or a federal edict. They are not an invasion of privacy, a usurping of local control, or a corporate takeover of K-12 education.

While all of these claims may make for sensational headlines, the student learning results speak for themselves. But it is up to us to show, share, and speak about what the standards mean for students. The implementation of the common core has significantly improved the teaching and learning in Room 214 and in my colleagues' classrooms across the nation.

But don't take my word for it. Come see for yourself.

Jessica Cuthbertson, a Colorado educator with 10 years' experience, teaches middle school literacy and has served as a literacy instructional coach for Aurora Public Schools.

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