If I told you that this school year has been one of a kind, let's be honest...we both know that is such an understatement! I feel like a first year teacher all over again. Welcome to...My Twilight Zone.
When I flash back to my first year of teaching, those feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and inadequacy come flooding in. These emotions are fresh, as if it happened yesterday. I remember spending weekends and long hours lesson planning, scripting out what to say, and preparing materials for instruction. In hindsight, I unsuccessfully tried to control my chaos.
So, upon starting my 9th year of teaching, I felt confident. My familiarity with first grade curriculum, procedures, and expectations was second nature. I was excited to learn about the new Common Core Standards. I welcomed the notion of a consistent and rigorous curriculum to stimulate and guide student learning. Of course it was going to take effort, training, and diligence to successfully implement. My desire to teach students focused, challenging, and useful material justified the effort.
Well, things are never as they appear. Now, I don't know about your district, but the Common Core is NOT the only new item on the table. We have thrown out older systems and procedures to clear the way for brand new Common Core resources. Since the start of the school year, I have participated in continual training and directives to learn how to implement new systems for: formative assessment, summative assessment, online lesson planning, report cards, and data analysis reports.
Of course it makes sense that new standards would require new assessments. However, it is natural to question the integrity and validity of our newly compiled systems when they are causing such confusion and stress. When focus is spread too thin, it seems inevitable that communication and clarity of vision will falter.
So, this begs the question: Are we trying to do too much at once? Is quantity interfering with the quality of student learning? Are we working against ourselves and producing the opposite desired effect? If districts create faulty and misaligned systems, how will this affect the implementation of the Common Core?
For me, the most stressful feelings come from lack of communication, not knowing where to start, finding the time, and doing right by the students. Communication and collaboration can be a school's saving grace. Or, maybe things just have to fall apart so other things can fall into place. I totally think Pete the Cat was written for teachers. "Does Pete get upset? Goodness, no. Instead, Pete continues along singing his song about his" positive, focused, and flexible attitude.
With that said, I try not to complain without offering a solution. However, we all know there is not a quick fix. So, I offer up a resource that I hope you'll find useful. It is a list of CCSS text exemplars from the North Carolina Department of Education. Not only are the exemplars sorted by grade level and genre, but you will find links to some of the poetry and short passage exemplars online, ISBN numbers, and prices at Amazon.com. This list mirrors the resources listed in CCSS Appendix B. Use the list as an example and reference for increasing text rigor.