Friday, August 12, 2011

Teach What Matters

The Common Core is almost upon us. The next iteration in the evolutionary process of deciding what to teach students in public school classrooms will become law within the next couple of years. Sadly, it is but an evolution of what went before. There is little, at least in the math standards, that engenders genuine excitement since it is basically what we've been tying to do for the past thirty years. Perhaps the greatest morsel of revolution is the reduction in the number of standards so that the requirements should no longer be, hopefully, "a mile wide and an inch deep". This should give students and teachers the chance to focus on what is really genuinely important in the world of quantitative literacy.

The old favorites, ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, to use the Mock Turtle's versions, are still there in most grades in the elementary school curriculum just as they were over 200 hundred years ago even though most kindergartners today are tech-savvy enough to use calculators, iPADS and email! How much better it would have been to have focused on the real concepts of combining, separating and comparing used in problem solving.

What seems to be missing from the Core Curriculum, although it may be buried there somewhere, is what learning and teaching are really all about; helping children learn the values of honesty and self worth, the ideas of compassion and caring, of sensitivity and humility. Helping them realize that most of the important things in life are not things but the friendships we cherish, the loyalties we develop, the aspirations we generate, and the joy of learning for it's own sake.

In my Schools and Society course at St. Mike's I challenge my students to identify what they care about and where their passions lie. Teachers who care and have passion have a better chance of teaching what matters.

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