Posts Tagged ‘teaching’


Common Core Standards: Five Big ‘Real Deal’ Ideas

by adminadam in articles, education, humor

Based on “From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas” by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.

IDEA #1 – Common Core Standards have new emphases and require careful reading.

To fully comprehend the BRAND-SPANKING-NEWNESS of the Common Core Standards you have to read them very carefully, because A) you are biased and think it’s just the “Same Old, Same Old”, and B) you don’t read things carefully. They are actually, really, truly new. Oh, yeah, and the Common Core Standards are Beautiful, Special, and Unique Snowflakes – each and every one of them. Read them daily with your microscope, magnifying glass, or monocle and (re)discover their never-ending novelty.

IDEA #2 – Standards are not curriculum.

Standards are not curriculum; goals are not processes; vision is not logistics; overall philosophy is not a set of specific instructions for instruction. Don’t forget it. Oh, and because you weren’t aware of any of this it most likely means you have been “(m)arching through a list of topics or skills” and calling it “guaranteed and viable” in your teaching. And this ain’t never gonna yield the “Sophisticated Outcomes that the Standards envision”. So quit throwin’ your meaningless labels on what you’re doing and callin’ it good, yo! Also, don’t you dare forget to capitalize the ‘Standards’ in ‘Common Core Standards’; them dudes is holy, you see?

IDEA #3 – Standards need to be “unpacked”.

The Common Core Standards are not one whole, but four, read: Four Cohesive Whole’s. And the Whole’s gotta be unpacked, ya’ll.

  • One Whole is Long Term Transfer Goals. Meaning kids apply what they learn from your class to what they’re doing in other classes, and possibly even in real life. Transfer that one to your Long-Term Practice – ‘cause I bet you never would’ve!
  • Whole Number Dos is Overarching Understandings. Meaning that students will now be able to build an archway over their heads under which they can stand. Comprende, muchacho? In this way they will truly understand what bridge builders go through on a day-to-day basis. Pretty cool, huh?
  • Whole Number Three is Overarching Essential Questions, so students can be empowered to ask things like ‘What is the quickest, most effective way for me to build this bridge so I can drive over it into the Land of Bridges which is college?’. Or, ‘What is the meaning of life if I’m ditched by my homecoming date?’.
  • The Last Whole is Cornerstone Tasks. Neither stones nor one-time items on a to-do list, these are life-long performances that students will learn to act out. Things like teamwork, creativity, or pretending to be able to use a computer. This brings us into the 21st century, which, by the way, is the New Century that began 14 years ago. So we’re a bit behind, you see? Because that’s when computers, the internet, creativity, and the idea of team-work were invented. Let’s get these kids ready for the year 2000. You may not know this, but at least two states have already brought their Art Standards up to the Year 2000 Level: Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. They had content experts and experienced teachers (yes, both!) unpack — literally ‘take out of their backpacks’ — brand new Next Generation Arts Standards. Things you couldn’t even imagine before the creation of the internet, like building Mood-based Color-changing Dubstep/Techno Unicorn Mobile Speakers (which now hang from the ceilings in every classroom in their states). Rumor has it students in Massachusetts will be adding RC laser-pointer horns to the unicorns sometime during second semester of this year. And in April, Pennsylvania school districts will begin auditions for endurance violinists who can stand under and accompany the unicorn dupstep mobiles throughout the school day. What’s your state doing?

IDEA #4 – A coherent curriculum is mapped backward from desired performances.

Map it backwards. Start from the end-point and walk backwards to the beginning. Students need to see this kind of performance modeled. This is the only way they will know where they’re going, and the only way you’ll know for sure how to get them there. Do the same with your curriculum; write it backwards. (.noitautcnup ruoy htiw gnitrats yrT)

IDEA #5 – Standards come alive through assessments.

Holy cow! Assessments are what bring the Standards to life. The Standards were already holy, of course; now they will be transubstantiated into Performances, Quizzes, Tests, and Country Reports. It is Apotheosis: Physical. Let there be Cornerstone Tasks!


The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher

by adminadam in education, essays

The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher
By John Taylor Gatto
New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991

Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do at the time, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. The license I hold certifies that I am an instructor of English language and English literature, but that isn’t what I do at all. I don’t teach English, I teach school — and I win awards doing it.

Teaching means different things in different places, but seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They constitute a national curriculum you pay for in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. You are at liberty, of course, to regard these lessons any way you like, but believe me when I say I intend no irony in this presentation. These are the things I teach, these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you will.


A lady named Kathy wrote this to me from Dubois, Indiana the other day:

“What big ideas are important to little kids? Well, the biggest idea I think they need is that what they are learning isn’t idiosyncratic — that there is some system to it all and it’s not just raining down on them as they helplessly absorb. That’s the task, to understand, to make coherent.”

Kathy has it wrong. The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parents’ nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world….What do any of these things have to do with each other?

Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions. Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on them as quality in education. The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science and so on than to leave with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality in education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess.

Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and education is a set of codes for processing raw facts into meaning. Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences and the school obsession with facts and theories, the age-old human search lies well concealed. This is harder to see in elementary school where the hierarchy of school experience seems to make better sense because the good-natured simple relationship of “let’s do this” and “let’s do that” is just assumed to mean something and the clientele has not yet consciously discerned how little substance is behind the play and pretense.

Think of the great natural sequences like learning to walk and learning to talk; following the progression of light from sunrise to sunset; witnessing the ancient procedures of a farmer, a smithy, or a shoemaker; watching your mother prepare a Thanksgiving feast — all of the parts are in perfect harmony with each other, each action justifies itself and illuminates the past and the future. School sequences aren’t like that, not inside a single class and not among the total menu of daily classes. School sequences are crazy. There is no particular reason for any of them, nothing that bears close scrutiny. Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism.

I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order. In a world where home is only a ghost, because both parents work, or because too many moves or too many job changes or too much ambition, or because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny. That’s the first lesson I teach.


The second lesson I teach is class position. I teach that students must stay in the class where they belong. I don’t know who decides my kids belong there but that’s not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered by schools has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human beings plainly under the weight of numbers they carry. Numbering children is a big and very profitable undertaking, though what the strategy is designed to accomplish is elusive. I don’t even know why parents would, without a fight, allow it to be done to their kids.

In any case, again, that’s not my business. My job is to make them like it, being locked in together with children who bear numbers like their own. Or at the least to endure it like good sports. If I do my job well, the kids can’t even imagine themselves somewhere else, because I’ve shown them how to envy and fear the better classes and how to have contempt for the dumb classes. Under this efficient discipline the class mostly polices itself into good marching order. That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

Read the rest of this entry »


On Rulers (Wu-Wei @ 10%)

by adminadam in education, quotes

Tao De Ching #17: Rulers

The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

Largely consistent with modern educational philosophy: The students are the center, more so, each student his or her own center. The teacher is a loving conductor, adviser, and commentator. Management is essential, but only up to a certain threshold; individual autonomy dies under the iron fist.


Teacher Self-Check (You Ok?)

by adminadam in articles

1. Are you healthy in body?
(If not, go sleep.)

2. Have you taken account of all classroom and teaching variables?
(“Yes”=Liar. “No”=Think.)

3. Do you know students have diverse learning styles?
(Haven’t you heard?)

4. Have you spiced things up lately with a variety of activities?
(What spice describes your class dynamic now?)

5. Have you included humor and fun in your plans?
(Are you fun and funny with your class?)

6. Are you intentionally having fun teaching?
(Does fun just happen randomly?)

7. Have you clarified your expectations lately?
(Today? Tomorrow?)

8. Did you make clear those expectations from the start?
(“No”=New Beginnings)