Tag Archives: common core

Rain and the Common Core

October in San Diego is often a hot and dry month characterized by Santa Ana conditions, creating a high risk for wildfire.  We’ve already had many “red flag” warning days.  These warm, dry October days are both wonderful…an extension of summer…and terrifying, having lived through some horrific urban wildfires in the last decade or so.

Rainy days are a rare occurrence here.  We average less than ten inches of rain a year…and I can’t remember the last time it rained!  (Was it in May or June?  Or even before that?)

With rain in today’s forecast, my students were dressed in an odd assortment of post-summer attire: shorts with sweatshirts, boots with tank tops, hoods and hats…  Like having one foot in summer and one ready for the impending storm.  Students were excited, edgy–some complaining of cold (in the 60+ degree temps), others in sleeveless tops running happily in the almost-weather.  The blustery conditions hinted at “real” weather–weather that didn’t arrive during the school day today.

An hour or so after school ended for the day, the much anticipated rain arrived.  Not just the drizzles the we so often get, but real soak-the-ground kind of rain.

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Meteorologists, through the media, announce our “severe weather” and the roadways are a mess with spin outs and collisions caused by slippery conditions and out-of-practice rainy day drivers.  And yet, we need this rain.  We need it to ease the fire conditions that come with the parched earth.  We need it to lessen the demands on our over-stressed reservoirs.  We need it to water our lawns and gardens and native foliage.

And the rain is a reminder that change can be a catalyst.  In a place where the weather seldom changes, it’s easy to see rain as inconvenience.  It tangles the traffic, scares customers from the local farmer’s market, and causes many events to be canceled.  (Like I said, rain is rare here!) But change, like rain, is an opportunity to rethink everyday routines.

At lunch today, some of my colleagues and I were talking about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the stormy conditions they are creating for many teachers.  They feel threatening like severe weather (or a rainy day in San Diego)…requiring a change in the ways teachers think about instruction and classroom routines.  It will take more than pulling on some rain boots to create an environment for deep learning, a place where students make sense of concepts rather than memorize facts and procedures.  Change feels hard and scary, but like the rain in San Diego, we need it.

And like my students on an almost rainy day, some teachers are ready to embrace the change and rethink their instruction and consider new ways to support students to more critical thinking and in-depth analysis.  And others will make more cosmetic changes, renaming old practices and repackaging old projects.  There will be an odd assortment like the tank tops and boots and shorts and hoods my students wear–a mish-mash in our educational system–as we figure out just how to deal with the change.

I’m choosing to embrace change and see it as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience. We need the rain in San Diego…and we need change in our educational system.

Driving in Los Angeles

Driving in Los Angeles is an unique experience. It can be daunting, stressful, confusing, exhausting, and sometimes downright harrowing! The roads and freeways are a relic of the L.A. of yesterday when there were fewer people, fewer cars, and lower speeds. As the city grew and sprawled, freeways were added that interconnect and crisscross…some to the left, some to the right, often with short on ramps and sometimes an immediate need to change lanes. The surface streets aren’t much better. Many are narrow with lanes unexpectedly ending or suddenly cars parking in what used to be your driving lane. There is evidence of attempts to update the roadways and to improve the driving experience, but most work is mostly cosmetic…keeping what already exists functional, while attempting to make the improvements when possible to the roads and freeways in use.

Sometimes our educational systems feels like driving in Los Angeles. Many of the structures in place are relics of days gone by. Schedules and groupings are mostly as they have always been. But we have more students, diverse learners, more access to information, and as a result of all of that, changing expectations for outcomes for student learning. With the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) there is a move to go in and remake some of those roads (to carry out the L. A. driving metaphor), the improve access to and delivery of robust learning experiences for students. But in many cases, instead of reconsidering the educational system…including testing, funding, organizing, professional development…teachers are being asked to fill in the potholes. They are taking old practices and adding a new activity or two to meet the new standards.

And I understand why this is happening…both with L.A. roads and our educational system. Change is hard and often painful. We would have to make sacrifices to tear down what isn’t really working and build new structures to meet emerging needs and those in the foreseeable future. Wow, I tackled a complex topic late on a Wednesday. There’s so much more to think about here…