Today feels like a new beginning.
Don't get me wrong. I hate January. Always have, always will.
But today feels clean. Crisp. Like we're starting over on something.
It was my first day back to school after a dreamy two weeks off. Last night I was in a state of dead panic imagining my return. The early mornings! The dark! The cold! How can I do it again? And then today I just did it. I drove to school in the dark, planned my lessons, taught my lessons, graded some papers, joked with my students. It was easy. And I wondered, what in the world was I so worried about going back to school for?
The sun is shining, and on my way home from school it was 36 degrees. Not a heat wave, by any means, but liveable. Enjoyable. Take-the-dog-on-a-walk-able. I understand that in some parts of the country it is negative ten, twenty, thirty degrees today. I will pray for you.
The best thing about January is that the days start to get longer. I am quite the nerd when it comes to sunrises and sunsets. I take after my dad in that way. He was always obsessed with how much daylight we are gaining or losing. I have a calendar printed out next to my desk that tells me exactly what time the sun rises and what time it sets and how much daylight we are gaining each day. From here until June it's nothing but more sunshine for us, didja know? We've already gained 15 minutes of daylight at night! And within two weeks we will have gained 15 more. Ain't that something? This next week is the darkest our mornings will ever be, but give it a fortnight and we'll start gaining time in the morning too. (And wow! I successfully used fortnight in a sentence!) No one loves January, but who can argue with the magic of gaining daylight?
Tomorrow I will meet my student teacher. Yep- I am harnessing the control freak in me and letting someone else take over my classes until April. (All except my AP class- that bad boy will remain mine and mine alone.) "Letting" is a relative term, really. My school is at a very convenient location and close to three major universities. Consequently, we get a lot of student teachers. It was a cold day in hell when Copper Hills saw a student teacher because we were out in no man's land, but this new school's got them filing in right and left, day and night, fall and spring. All the other English teachers have taken their turns with the student teachers within the past year or two, so I suppose my number was up. Student teacher me!
I have no idea how I feel about it yet. It will be nice to have a little extra downtime, no doubt about that. The idea of going to school and having all day to read and write and get lessons together and feel on the ball for once in my life makes me almost giddy. But then there's the fact that I'm a control freak. I can just see the poor girl now, getting up to teach and me following right behind her, whispering violently in her ear, "No, no no! You're doing everything all wrong! Take roll on this little clipboard, not out loud! That kid is talking- shut him up! Your instructions are totally unclear! This is boring- liven up your lesson!" I don't envy the woman that student teaches for a red personality like myself. No, I do not.
Speaking of school, I have been thinking a lot lately about the common core and trying to understand the beast that it is. I would love to hear your thoughts. It is no secret that I have struggled with it this year, and I have tried hard to separate my own selfish classroom wants with what is really best for my students. I think my biggest complaint is that it shows a mistrust of teachers. (But see, that's a selfish complaint.) At the same time, I understand and appreciate the value of having teachers teach the same standards and be on the same page. I love that the core pushes students and has such a focus on rigor. But then where did the imagination and creativity go? And goodness, what happens to the poor kids who can barely keep up with the curriculum now? Do they just get weeded out completely? It feels "survival of the fittest"-esque to me. There is little time for exploration and discovery with the Common Core and mostly there is time for evidence analysis evidence analysis evidence.
And then there's the flexibility issue. I am teaching three different classes this year. Two I have taught before, but with all the implementation of the core and different books available at this school, it honestly feels like three entirely new classes. All year I have felt slightly out of control. Like I just don't quite have a grip on everything. What is frustrating to me is that I know I already have really good lessons made that I could use right now in my classes. I have excellent, original material right at my finger tips. But instead of doing a killer job teaching that material, I am doing a horrifically crappy job teaching all new material. My students, as a result, are suffering. I feel like I'm cheating them. I am not teaching them nearly as well as I taught my students last year because it's such a dang scramble every day to get my lessons ready. And who's to say that the new lessons and standards are any better than what I already had prepared?
One of my favorite college professors posted this article on her facebook page- very interesting reading concerning how the core got passed, how states adopted it, where the funding is coming from, what research backs it up, etc. And then there's this video. I know you can't believe everything you see and hear, and certainly there is another side to this argument that is not being represented, but I can't help but feel a bit disillusioned and even bitter when I see and read things like this.
I want to like the Common Core. I do. I want to believe that it has a lot of merit and value and that it really is better for our students. I worry, though, that with its huge push for rigor and evidence and uniformity it is leaving so many in the dust, perhaps myself included.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the Core, especially if you are an educator or have children in school now. (Forty five states have adopted it so almost all of you should know something about it!) I have tried to not be too negative in this post, but have wanted to accurately express some frustrations and struggles I have had, and would love to hear your reasons for loving the Common Core.