Sierra's View: The Benefits of the Common Core (!!!).

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Friday, November 4, 2016

The Benefits of the Common Core (!!!).

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Common Core. Some people hear this phrase and instantly freak out.  Before you have a heart attack, I wanted to explain my input from a sixth grade teacher's mindset. I understand that others disagree with this and I appreciate thoughtful responses, but, just as I teach my sixth graders, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Or, in this case, if you cannot state your opinion or thoughts respectfully, than please don't comment. I think some adults need to learn this on social media, don't you think? ;)

The other night, I was reading a post on Facebook (I should know not to do this during the election! Haha) about how Hillary Clinton is for the Common Core so that makes her evil. I am not here to talk politics (although, I so want to, I won't. It just breaks my heart to see that this is where we are as a country with our leaders....), but I don't think people really understand the common core.  Now, I realize that the common core has some flaws. I will be the first one to admit that. However, with that being said, I have seen, over my five years of teaching, some wonderful benefits and positive aspects of it. I have seen positive changes particularly in the enhancement of critical thinking skills in my students, the benefit of students in every grade learning the same thing across the nation, and the opportunity for students' to challenge themselves and grow academically.

First, the common core is beneficial to students because it allows them to work on their critical thinking skills. One of the biggest struggles that I have seen in my classroom is the lack of critical thinking from my students. In our society, we have a tendency to shut down when things aren't given to us immediately. Some people have a sense of entitlement of having things here and now (which I am guilty of). These students are being bombarded with technology. They are overtaken with instant gratification. They want things given to them now and they don't want to figure things out on their own. The other day I had a sixth grader (a 12 year old!!!!) come up to me and say, "Uh, I broke my pencil." I looked at her and simply said, "Okay, I want you to problem solve. Where do we go for a new pencil? What do we do in this situation?" I wanted her to learn to problem solve on her own. I wanted her to learn how to critically think. In the past, we have taught our kids in just plain simple answers (2+2=4).We haven't taught them to THINK. We need to teach our children to think and to process. The common core takes a problem and expects the students to be able to explain it further then just a simple '4'. It asks them, "HOW did you figure that out?" When you are able to explain WHY you are doing something, then you are able to truly master it. Instead of a simple 2 + 2, it gives you real, applicable circumstances in which you would use that. For example, it will say: "You have two apples, you need two many total apples do you need?"  Isn't that more beneficial to the students? Our students are being overtaken with everything being handed to them instantly. They don't want to think about anything. They want the internet to work right away, they want the answer instantly, they want someone else to solve their problems. Aren't we, as adults, guilty of this too? The common core allows those critical thinking skills to still be a part of this "Instant Gratification" world that we live in.

Second, the common core allows students to learn the same thing across the entire country, no matter what grade they are in. I have 9 new students in my class this year (Where I teach is a growing area). NINE. That is such a large number. Because of that large number, I have had to try to figure out what these students know and what they don't know. Because of the common core, I know that they should have learned a specific thing in fifth grade, whatever state they were in. I will give you two examples of this. I have a new student, let's say, from Georgia. He came to me with an understanding of multiplying and adding fractions, which is exactly what he should know. He was ready to learn what was in sixth grade, even though he just moved here. I have another student, let's say he's from Iowa. I'm not entirely sure what happened, but he has come to me not knowing much about adding, multiplying and subtracting fractions in fifth grade. At all. So, I know, his fifth grade teacher didn't help him master this concept. I am not blaming the teacher in this circumstance, but I am showing that these two examples help us see that having the same common core, and having teacher's know the core, helps these students as they progress through the grades, no matter where they are at throughout the country.

Third, the common core allows for a higher level of standards in these students. I have had, this year and in years past, students come to me in sixth grade without knowing their multiplication tables. This makes it difficult for them to master sixth grade math material. The common core material is, actually, very similar to the material in the past. Most of the differences with the new common core its that it challenges the students to THINK about they are doing, as opposed to just solving the problem blank. The common core material is very similar to years past, with an expansion on the WHY,which is what my students need. The common core allows for students to, in a way, "raise the bar." They are expected to be able to know more material and challenge themselves in positive ways academically. Isn't that something that parents want? Don't they want their students to succeed academically?

I have heard parents claim that their child is coming home crying because the work is too hard or too challenging. I get that. But there could be many factors affecting that. It could be the way that the teacher is teaching it. Perhaps the teacher is not understanding what the core is saying, or the teacher is not fully teaching the concept. I think it is important to remember that teachers are human ;). I am not a perfect human and definitely not a perfect teacher. I am guilty of this.  Also, it could, perhaps, simply be the child. That particular child could struggle without the common core being a part of the equation (no pun intended).  It could be the child that would struggle with the topic regardless of the core, it could be the teacher, or it could be lack of skills that your child possesses. It's not JUST the common core.

I think part of the reason why people are so against the common core is because it's new and different, which scares a lot of people. Parents tend to be afraid of 'new' --a new teacher, a new principal, etc. But, as the common core has progressed and teachers are starting to understand the material more, I think that it has shown a higher level of thinking in the children.

Also, I believe that it is important to remember that it could specifically be teachers coming about it could be wrong. The books they are choosing is NOT the common core. There are plenty of scholarly, well written, good texts that the child can read. That is a teacher flaw, not a common core flaw.

Yes, I understand that there are parts about the common core that are not perfect. I'll be the first one to admit that. I have experience with it...I'm TEACHING it. But, I do think that maybe instead of just sitting there and bashing it, it is beneficial to remember that so many of these skills are helping the students' critical thinking skills, level of ability, and overall understanding of the material.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this. I have a biased, different opinion being a teacher. These are just some of the things that I have noticed. What are your thoughts on the common core? What parts about it do you love? If you struggle with it, why? Are there certain aspects that you just personally disagree with? I am geniunely interested.

Remember, there are always two sides in an argument. Comment away! But, please, be kind :) 

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