Common Core: Curricular Choices Matter

common_coreBy Nick McDaniels — I blogged earlier this year about the restrictive application of the Common Core on my teaching.

It has limited what I’m allowed to teach. As the year has gone on I have found my annual burnout happening much earlier this year than in years past. I have had this feeling confirmed as mutual by many teachers I respect.

And then, in a stroke of wisdom, another English teacher said to me, as we were trying to figure out how to get ourselves out of our attitude funk, “Yes, our class sizes have gone up, but that has happened before, the students seem less prepared, but they always do, the amount of work that is put on us in addition to teaching is increasing, but we can generally handle that. What is really making me sad, it that I am not at all invested in what I’m teaching.”

She metaphorically hit the metaphorical nail on its metaphorical head.

This year I am entirely teaching material that I am not invested in. So are my colleagues around the district. It is not that the books that we are teaching are not good, though they are certainly far from great. It is that we are not even given copies of the book and the mandatory related curriculum until a day or two before we are to begin teaching it. At best, we are reading the books a chapter ahead of the students. It is no wonder we aren’t invested in it. We don’t have time to be invested in it. That saddens us because we love teaching what we know and love.

English probably more than most subjects provides a huge amount of flexibility in terms of materials, which has generally allowed teachers to select texts that they enjoy, know their students will enjoy, and know so well that they can teach it thoroughly. This year, my colleagues and I have none of those options. The worst part of it all is that the students know it.

Being passionate and knowledgeable about the subject you teach is one of the only ways to succeed in an urban classroom. We can, for a while, fake passion. And we tried. We can’t fake knowledge and because of this prescriptivist curricular thinking, our teachers are set up for failure, and in turn, so are our students. Fortunately, we teachers, like our students, are a resilient bunch.

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