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Common Core

Don’t “Freak Out” About Teaching the Core: Here’s Why

Don’t “Freak Out” About Teaching the Core: Here’s Why

By Jessica Sanders

David Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher at Cedar Springs High School and the founder of TeachingTheCore.com. What started as a way to learn the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) himself has turned into a movement, followed by thousands of teachers across the country.

We asked him a few questions to learn why he blogs about teaching the core, what he likes about the CCSS and why he isn’t “freaking out” about any of it.

Q: What compelled you to start TeachingTheCore.com?

A: About two-and-a-half years ago, I started hearing more than a few murmurings about the Common Core. I had always been a die-hard standards avoider, and it’s likely that a part of me was finally feeling guilty about that. This list of standards purported to be different, and I was intrigued by what all the fuss was about.

I started hearing more than a few murmurings about the Common Core. I had always been a die-hard standards avoider, and it’s likely that a part of me was finally feeling guilty about that.

So my plan was to simply read through them and share what I was learning—in other words, I was going to write-to-learn. I knew that, in terms of a worst-case scenario, it wouldn’t be a waste of time if I genuinely learned something—and heck, what if I helped out another teacher or two along the way?

I treated it like a summer job—a few nights a week after my family was in bed, I’d write a few blog posts, hoping that one day that work would pay off. It has happened to do that.

More: Are You Using The Perfect History Lesson Tool?

Q: What is your #1 reason for “not freaking out” about the Common Core?

A: It all comes down to two questions—if the answers align, there’s no need to freak.

Question 1: What is my ultimate goal for my students? My answer to that question is simple: I want to promote my students’ long-term flourishing.

Question 2: What is the ultimate goal of the Common Core document? (Ahem: answers must have textual evidence from the document itself.) The answer is simple; it occurs over 100 times in the Literacy document: college and career readiness (CCR).

If I want my students to be able to flourish in the long-term and I want to do everything in my power during my courses to promote that long-term flourishing, then I am not threatened by a list of literacy goals that describe college and career readiness. That list can probably teach me a thing or two.

So that’s the #1 reason for not freaking out—we’re talking about a list of descriptions about what it means to be CCR. Is anyone against building CCR students?

We’re talking about a list of descriptions about what it means to be CCR. Is anyone against building CCR students?

Q: Can you share one way that teachers can incorporate technology when teaching the Common Core?

A: When using technology, it’s all about practicality—at any given time in my classroom, I’m trying to figure out the fastest way to reach an objective because I’m simply too aware of how short and precious our class time is. So when technology can speed things up, I’m all for using it—and this, to me, mostly means using Google Docs when students compose polished pieces of writing. The collaboration features in Google Docs are major timesavers, and the revision they encourage is right in the ol’ CCSS.

More: 5 Research-Supported Benefits of Classroom Technology

Q: What do you struggle with most in the Common Core? How do you recommend other teachers handle this?

A: I struggle with the perennial problem of student ownership. There is no way to force a student to learn; he/she must apply himself/herself to the challenging and interesting tasks we make available in the classroom. The CCSS have increased the bar for our ultimate goal for students, but getting kids to really own their lives and the importance of developing a foundation in literacy skills is totally up to us teachers. I struggle with that every day, and I love that struggle.

Do you have an experience with Common Core that you’d like to share with us? Send an email to social@learn2earn.org.

Learn more about your fundraising Read-A-Thon at Learn2Earn.

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