Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards

An insightful read in the continued battle over Common Core.

Diane Ravitch's blog

I have thought long and hard about the Common Core standards.

I have decided that I cannot support them.

In this post, I will explain why.

I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that…

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From Deliberate Ignorance to Intentional Awareness

As we get closer to the end of the first quarter, I thought this blog served as a great reminder for us to refrain from the deliberate ignorance that keeps us from serving the struggling students that need our attention and become more intentionally aware of their needs. It will make you a stronger, more knowledgeable educator in the end! #ExpectGreatness

Dr. Kelly Bullock Daugherty

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The bottom line is that most U.S. schools have no plan to provide the sorts of classroom instruction that at-risk kindergartners need. Neither high-quality, extensive professional development for kindergarten teachers nor expert tutorial instruction for at-risk kindergartners is on the agenda at this point. This means that most schools deliberately create a pool of students who will become struggling readers. I say deliberately because, unfortunately, that’s just what it is— deliberate ignorance of what we should do to address the problems of at-risk kindergartners. (Allington, 2011)

In a recent staff meeting, we read the article “What At-Risk Readers Need” by Richard Allington. The above quote stuck with me and elicited some great discussion among a group of us during the meeting. The article discussed the lack of instruction at-risk readers receive within the classroom. Allington asserts that children leaving kindergarten not knowing their letters and letter sounds will more than…

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Another Snow Day???

I can remember growing up hearing that “there is ALWAYS learning to do”. Even when there is no homework, there is still homework. Boy, I thought my parents were as crazy as a loon! These folks are talking silly! It’s a SNOW DAY!! Of course, once I became an educator, those expectations began to make sense. Once I became a parent, it all became clear as ever.

This winter has been exceptionally troubling.  Schools and businesses have been closed and/or delayed more often than I can recall. It has elicited quite a few memories of the snow days we had when I was younger.  No school, no work, just fun and games.  Things haven’t changed much for the 21st century kids of today. Snow days are the benefits of the winter season. But, for parents, the feeling is not shared as intimately.

For working parents, snow days tend to cause frustration and irritation. Having to call off work or find accommodations for their children so they don’t spend the day home alone tends to cause unintentional stress to say the least.  Not necessarily stress from having to miss school, but the added stress of deviating from your normal routine in order to figure out what to do with them with such short notice. I know. My husband and I have dealt with the same dilemma. It is without a doubt, stressful and inconvenient. Nevertheless, today is a SNOW DAY, so we do what we need to do.

For stay at home parents, the irritation stems from the fact that along with any household responsibilities they must accomplish, NOW they have to deal with the needs of the children as well. There’s no quiet time or naps to be taken.  You can’t enjoy your lunch in peace, watch your soap operas, do the laundry, or read that book in the silence of your own home. Nope. There’s been a change of plans. Today is a SNOW DAY! So, instead, you get to hear the blaring of the video games, your son antagonize your daughter, screaming, yelling, the bumping of toys, and the ever pleasant yelping of “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” or “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” all day long. As it goes, this will undoubtedly become a great irritant. Especially after three, four, and five consecutive snow days in a row. But, what are you gonna do? Today’s a SNOW DAY.

Now, I may be in the minority on this, but I have to admit that I enjoy being home with my babies for snow days.  Yes, there are times when they become overwhelmingly rambunctious, but even with that, we make time to play games, relax, and even do homework! I’ve come to the realization that the moment they show tumultuous behaviors, they are communicating boredom. There are times they need to release that energy and then other times they need to take a break from over stimulation. So, I need to be careful about what we choose to do while we’re cooped up in the house. I noticed several parents on my social media page posting pictures of their kids playing games and playing in the snow during their snow days.  It warmed my heart to see all the family bonding. But I also noticed parents ready to get their kids back in school, regardless of the negative temperatures.  Everyone has their reasoning, but after reading so many comments about how the schools are failing kids by being closed for so many days and questioning students learning and success by refusing to stay opened, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the loss of their child’s instructional time in question or the loss the parent’s own personal time.

You know, I get it. These babies get restless and bored.  Their minds are hungry. We as parents, as the first TEACHER to enter their lives, we have the responsibility and the duty to feed their minds with information that is nourishing to their growth and development. Believe it or not, research suggests that even video games can be vital in strengthening a wide range of cognitive skills (American Psychological Association, 2013). Yes, even the violent ones (although, I don’t condone them).  Therefore, while there is video game play in our house, it is strictly monitored and controlled because after all, too much of anything good can become a bit toxic. Television and video games are limited to weekends only. And, well…of course, SNOW DAYS.

Snow days in our house consist of a variety of sensory stimulating activities. Most of the time, the kids play with toys, build things with their legos (and these aren’t the legos WE grew up with… these are advanced legos that end up looking like trucks, planes, and cities!), and they do watch TV for a while as well. But, after a few hours of that, we take time to read and practice math skills. You see, the rule in our house is much like that from my childhood…even when you don’t have homework, you still have homework. Yep! Even on your SNOW DAY! There’s always something to learn whether they know it or not.  Our kids can be learning something new all the time and the best part about it…they don’t even know it!  My daughter loves to draw and color and she can do this for hours without end.  What she doesn’t realize is that she’s strengthening her problem solving skills, her creativeness, her fine motor skills, and developing her higher order thinking skills.  She also enjoys reading which is a pleasantry in itself.  She enjoys looking at the pictures and even adding her own details to the stories she reads. Doing this develops her fluency and her vocabulary skills. In the meantime, she’s having fun and also…learning. Both of my boys love to build with their legos and to read. My youngest loves to read and write about sports and my oldest has taken a liking to historical fiction, again building problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, inquiry skills, and also…more learning.

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I know it seems that I’m going on and on about my babies, but I guess I’m trying to make a point.  I acknowledge that snow days may become an inconvenience. I acknowledge that kids have a way of becoming bothersome. But what I cannot and will not do is risk the health and safety of my children on a snow day for the sake of my own sanity. I will not blame the schools and/or teachers for that which Mother Nature has so lovingly bestowed upon us. “She” is out of our control. The schools have a responsibility to keep hundreds of children, teachers, and staff safe during inclement weather days, not to our work or soap opera schedules. We, the educators, understand that we lose valuable instructional time when we have snow days, however, if we, the parents, expect more of our children and take first hand responsibility for our students learning when they are home, we, educators and parents, can come together where the rubber meets the road and help our children attain that much more.

With that, let me revisit an earlier discussion of expectations. Not teacher expectations of students, but parental expectations of children.  When you were so blessed to have children, what were your dreams for their future? How do you picture them at age 5? 10? 21? I’d like to suggest that the moment we became parents, we imagined our children becoming something greater than ourselves.  We see them as the doctors, lawyers, police officers, and firefighters they declare themselves to want to be. But I encourage you to dig deeper than that with them. Ask them why they want to be what they have declared and how they will reach their goal(s). You may be as surprised as we were when our son told us that he would choose to be a doctor, but, “that’s too hard”. An honor student, unknowing of his own capabilities, defeated before he’s even begun working toward his goal. Why is that and how do I respond? Do I blame his lack of confidence on the school system and the teachers who have crossed his path? Has the 5 snow days, plus the 3 days he was out sick diminished his ability to receive and retain knowledge? Although easy to place blame in those places, it is ludicrous to suggest that my children will not obtain what they need because of all things…SNOW DAYS.

Consider this, our children are what we, the parents, shape them to be. If we instill in them our expectations, these will ultimately become their expectations.  If we model what learning looks like for them, they will ultimately mirror back to us the determination to learn. If we continuously talk to our children about how great they are, they will ultimately find that greatness inside. I whole-heartedly believe that we the parents hold the key to unlock our children’s future. Schools and teachers simply cultivate the seeds of knowledge, already planted. We are the first teacher our children encounter. Schools and teachers are in place to supplement and enrich the lessons we have already begun to teach. As teaching and learning change to fit the 21st century generation (and believe me, it is definitely different from when we were in elementary school), let us commit to changing and learning with the times for the sake of our children.

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Let’s make our children’s education our first priority rather than making it the schools responsibility. Teachers need parents to be more invested in their children’s learning and parents need teachers to keep them abreast of the new curriculum and learning outcomes within the classroom. So, you see, we need each other, but parents…PARENTS are the ones that first teach their children and help them begin to find direction and purpose in their lives.

So, now, instead of blaming the schools and teachers for missed lessons and instruction…decide instead on what your kids will learn new from YOU today, because today is yet another snow day.

Rebuilt, Not Broken

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I started teaching in January 2000. My first position was in a catholic school teaching 6th-8th grade English Language Arts.  I had a great mentor that guided me every step of the way. It was a great experience, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I knew this wasn’t my niche. In fact, it was through this experience that I realized that the middle school grades and I were NOT a good match at all. I ended up leaving at the end of the year for a full-time position in the Cleveland Municipal School District.

I started in a third grade classroom.  I can remember being excited about having my own classroom, but also being timid and unsure. Now that I have my own classroom, what do I do? Everything I had learned in my education courses had begun to run together.  What’s the curriculum? What about lesson plan writing?  And, wait! What about a behavior management plan?  Oh my goodness.  What in the world have I gotten myself into?

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Thankfully, the principal under whom I was hired was incredibly supportive and encouraging.  She gave me sound advice about how to get started and paired me with a veteran teacher who was very knowledgeable, down to earth, and didn’t present herself as intimidating in any way. Suddenly, my anxiety lessened.  This veteran teacher mentored me the entire year.  She was always willing to help me work out my lessons and to make them more fun and exciting. I felt comfortable that this was it.  This was where I was supposed to be. That is, until my principal was replaced halfway through the year. What little comfort I had, had now been taken away.  To this day, I am still unsure of the reason(s) behind her replacement.  What I knew, for certain, was that things would be changing for me and soon. Little did I know how drastically.

Luckily, I made it through the first year and was now beginning my second full year teaching. This time, I was placed in a fourth grade classroom.  I had a new team, a new curriculum, and now, a new principal to learn as well. She was a strong woman, not a flaw by any means.  She communicated to the students that there would be no ruckus tolerated.  She instituted the “zero tolerance” plan from day one.  She was straightforward with parents, although her approach was often times rough around the edges. Likewise, my team consisted of two knowledgeable and very creative teachers.  In fact, I remember sharing with them wishing I had inherited a creative, artistic gene, but, my plain Jane ways would have to suffice. They appeared to be willing to help me learn the new curriculum and helped me obtain materials that I would need to complete my lessons effectively. I thought things might work out after all.  Yep.  That’s what I thought.  Unfortunately, things became very bad for me very quickly.

I must admit that I have suppressed many of my memories of this time because those years ultimately became hell on earth, but I will share as accurately as my memory allows. My first hint that these years would become a tormenting thorn in my side was during one of our first staff meetings.  I remember the principal coming in and acknowledging that our school was in a state of academic emergency, but stating something to the effect of, “…whatever happens, I’m NOT going down with this ship! That you can be certain of!” What the…!  Did she really just say that? Maybe my hearing is failing me, I thought to myself.  She couldn’t have made that statement. I could have settled for my failed hearing at that moment, only she made it a point to repeatedly declare this frequently and with unyielding conviction.

Over the next two years, she continuously challenged everything I did and every move I made.  Even worse, the anxieties and insecurities regarding my knowledge base, instructional practices, and delivery, which I thought I was sharing in confidence among my team, I later found was being shared with my principal.  I knew confidentiality had been broken because my principal would reiterate things I shared with my team [in private] in conversation, sarcastically and humiliatingly, directly and indirectly. She would exclude me from professional development inservices meant for the entire fourth and fifth grade teams.  Even more than that, would talk about how ineffective I was behind my back, allowing the other teachers (Yes! My TEAM!) to share these unwarranted conversations with me upon their return.

I couldn’t understand what I had done to deserve this treatment.  I just wanted to learn what good teaching was all about.  I wanted to be the best teacher I could be.  That’s all. There are so many other things I could note, but that would then make this post a griping session and thus, counterproductive to my purpose.  I will share, however, this one last memory with you.  During what was probably my last evaluation with her, I shared with her my aspirations of one day becoming an administrator and wanting opportunities to learn as much as I could in order to reach that goal.  Her response was very cold but not surprising. “You barely make an effective teacher, let alone making a good administrator.” Nice, huh? She added that the only reason she challenged me and pushed me so hard was because she was trying to encourage me to become a “shining star”.  She was trying to help me. Really? She said this to me all the time, although she would never share with me any suggestions of how to become this bright star she desired me to be. The only thing she offered was that it was my job to figure out how to do that.

For the next two years, I went to work with a headache, left work with a headache, and worked at home hour after hour with a headache, trying to “figure it out”; how to shine with no intelligible feedback received from anyone. I was in a downward spiral, moving quickly, until the best thing that could happen to me, did happen to me.  I received my pink slip in November 2002.  I was being laid off at the end of the year and had decided I was done with this.  I was leaving education. My principal, this educational leader (for lack of a better word….or maybe I should say, alternative to a more appropriate word), had abused me mentally, verbally, and emotionally to my breaking point.  My hopes and dreams, successfully crushed, broken into a million pieces. The insecurities and lack of confidence I started teaching with now multiplied ten times over.  Maybe she was right. Maybe teaching wasn’t my thing after all.

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Thank goodness for family! My mother, a retired teacher, and my wonderful husband discouraged me from leaving teaching.  They know more than anyone how much I adore children and how much I could enjoy teaching. I hesitantly adhered to their counsel. Soon thereafter, I attended a minority job fair. Interestingly enough, the longest line in the place was for job openings in the Cleveland Municipal School District. Imagine that! Well, I certainly did NOT intend to go back there, so…I went to the shortest line in the place, Painesville City Local School District, where I have been teaching now for 10 years.

Yep! I stuck with teaching. I was hired as a fourth grade teacher, the second fourth grade teacher in the school. My mentor teacher was AWESOME! We are close friends even to this day.  She helped me more than I had ever been helped in the past. Not only did she help me learn the curriculum and the procedural processes of the school and district, she also taught me time management and stress management. Someone cared about my well being? What the heck??? And my principal, this time a man, checked in on me often. Very often. He reminded me a lot of my dad. He encouraged me to interact and ask my coworkers questions regarding instructional practices and procedures before coming to him. I could respect that. He wanted us to be responsible and accountable for our own growth. Very similar to the expectations we hold our students to, right?  The difference here, was that if I did have a question or concern no one else could answer…he could and would provide instructional direction so that I would learn and grow professionally. Year after year, I experienced the same thing.  Every administrator and most every teacher I interacted with was willing to help me and wanted to see me grow, succeed, and acquire my ultimate goal. Rest assured being a principal it is NOT (thanks to my earlier experience in teaching) and I’m absolutely okay with that.  My passion is still in administration, however, my focus is now on teacher leadership and professional development.

Painesville City helped me rebuild myself into a confident, secure teacher and now, teacher leader. I started by simply regaining my confidence. Then, I began slowly allowing myself to experience leadership roles in committees and also decided to pursue my doctoral degree at the same time in, of all things, Teacher Leadership.  This teaching thing has me feeling pretty darn good now.  I received a new position as a School Improvement Coach, which gave me a great deal of leadership responsibilities.  I really enjoyed that position because it was during my time in this position that I realized, without any uncertainty, that being a school principal was not for me.  I wanted to work with teachers.  I wanted to teach teachers about best practices in education and school improvement.  I wanted to motivate and support teachers in their growth. I wanted to provide teachers with everything I didn’t receive in those first three years of my teaching career. Eliminated after only two and a half years, the loss of that position has not deterred me from continuing to pursue leadership roles for my school and district, as well as starting my own business (symbolically named “Transitions”) as an Educational Consultant as of the first of this year.  I am no longer broken. I have been rebuilt.

I assert to you that true educators absolutely know that teaching is their passion.  I also submit that there are those few that are in the field for three paid breaks a year, to include summers off.  You know that’s true and you’re probably thinking about that coworker right now.  I’ve always known that teaching is where I was supposed to be.  If you know, without a doubt that you are working within the realm of your passion, don’t ever allow anyone, teacher or administrator, berate you, your practice, or your intentions. There will be times when something occurs during your day to day routine that will make you feel as if you have reached your breaking point, which is the reason I am writing this particular post.  Something during my recent post evaluation conference triggered memories from my first three years of teaching. It was nothing my current principal said during the conference.  Everything she saw and rated, I agreed with.  While it’s been difficult to pinpoint, I believe it may have been triggered by my lack of knowledge in a newer process. I felt I had failed as a teacher leader and it broke me down into that insecure, timid first year teacher I thought I had left behind.

I assure you, my fellow educators that it IS possible to rebuild a broken, beaten down spirit. This by no means suggests that we will not become unsure, unstable, and fall. We will.  It is the nature of our ever-changing field. We are always changing, learning, and growing. What it does mean, and what I have learned through my traumatizing experience, is that we are resilient professionals. We have the great ability to bounce back and become stronger than ever when provided with adequate support and resources.  Realize that the implications of that may have altering affects on our students thinking and willingness to become successful individuals. We tell them never to give up, to keep trying, and to redefine their future. Let us lead by example, knowing that when we have been broken into millions of pieces…we can pick up those pieces. Protect them from being crushed or tampered with any further.  Reorganize them in order to create a stronger foundation. Be confident about what you know and what you continue to learn. Redefine them in order to identify your true purpose in your classroom, in your school, and in this field. You’re here for a reason.  This job is not for everyone. Reevaluate the way you think about teaching and learning.  Changing your thinking can affect your students thinking as well. Remember, there is power in positive thinking! After you’ve done all of that, then, rebuild a stronger, more defined and effective you! I promise you, YOU are worth the fight!

Dr. Kelly Bullock Daugherty

No longer broken. Rebuilt and getting stronger!

Give them the POWER!

What is education?

Education is POWER!

Welcome Friends!  I have decided to begin a new venture and I’d like to share it with you and all educators around!  Educating children is my passion! It is my strong belief that all children can learn, but it is up to we, the educators to help students empower themselves with knowledge and the confidence to believe that they can change the world despite the circumstances set before them.

This blog is meant to inspire teachers to think outside the instructional boxes that we sometimes find ourselves confined to.  Within this venue, I hope to offer guidance, encouragement, motivation and thought provoking discussions that will inspire us ALL to be the best educators we can be because our children, our students, deserve nothing less than that!