A Common Approach to Common Core State Standards

A thematic perspective intended to bridge Common Core Standards across the curriculum

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The Nerve

I recently went to the movies and paid full price.  Which is generally not the norm. I’m a wait-for-on-demand kinda girl, or wait until Tuesday when the cost is half the price.  I’m a teacher and frugal; labels that seem to go hand-in-hand.  So, it was a special occasion that caused this excursion: one month countdown until my recent high school graduate son flees the nest and leaves for his first year in college.  On a whim, hubby and I found ourselves home with our boy and decided to go to dinner and catch a movie.  What were the options?  Sausage Party-to which our son said, there is no way I’m seeing THAT movie with you guys. Notice he didn’t say he wouldn’t watch it later. That left us with Pets and Nerve.  We chose the latter.

And, you know those moments when you feel old…? Watching that movie was one of them; but, in a good, 41-years of age kind of way.  You see, I actually really enjoyed the movie.  It was, in my opinion, a commentary to the draw of internet culture that pushes levels of personal comfort for the sake of followers and likes.  I know, I know…I’m writing about it on my blog; the irony is not lost on me.  

Nerve posed as a reminder of the constant distraction that our students face.  This virtual social realm while living in the “real world” or IRL (in real life) and how that plays in our classrooms.  While discussing the virtual world is a post on it’s own, the themes in the movie is what I aim to explore.  

  1. You bail; You fail

These are the two choices offered to the players in the game.  There is no way out except to win.  

2. Followers are more important than relationships

All social media outlets rely on a following and numbers matter to the characters in the movie.

3. Virtual actions impact real life

Sadly, this is a concept that has to be a lesson that is learned in this movie and quite possibly, one that our students have yet to learn.

Without giving the movie away, I think these three points really reflect much of the gaps that our students face.  With technology being a driving force in their lives and access to it unprecedented, the need to be “seen” on social media is a reality.  How can educators compete with the draw?  Again…I’m working on that post!  (Stay TUNED!)

Back to the movie, the first point (theme 1)  is one that educators must combat.  There are not two options of “bail/fail” rather, we must show progress to our students.  This can be in the form of a rubric or feedback of a grade; however, students must know that if they TRY, there will be success.  

At the secondary level, relationships are everything and social clout is huge (theme 2).  This cannot be stressed enough.  Teachers must nurture this and treat all students with equal billing.  I know this isn’t easy, especially with huge class sizes, but the argument is that a classroom is the equalizer.  Mister or Miss popular is equal to the quiet or eccentric student.  Also, students who may not “talk” to one another or live in the same circles at school are likely to follow each other on social media. As educators it’s important to shake up groupings and encourage students who may not be “friends” to work together in class.

Our students do some crazy things online (theme 3).  Like crazy things online.  I have had very direct discussions with them about repercussions and I swear, it has fallen on deaf ears.  I would venture to say that most students are more astute in technology than their parents, so many have an online presence that is not known to their families.  Students are covert as are the apps that are available for students to hide behind.  This point has to be an ongoing discussion with students as many don’t see the connect to real life-until it is too late.

Technology and usage is a never ending conversation and learning curve.  As educators, we have to be aware of how tech impacts our classrooms; creative with how we blend tech in our lessons and intuitive with methodology that encourages students to be engaged in real life versus distracted by the virtual world.


Easy Like Sunday Morning

If I wake up sans alarm, and it’s after 5 a.m., chances are it’s Sunday morning.  And if it’s Sunday morning, that means a slice of heaven for the week.  We’re talking being the only one awake in the house, finishing a second cup of coffee, bagels, brunch, family dinner, meal prepping, watching the news and scouring Pinterest at.the.same.time, rest, and possibly finishing tasks that can’t wait until next Saturday. Choose 1-2 items off the list…or ALL…your choice because it’s SUNDAY!

I love that moment of waking up and knowing that it’s Sunday.  It’s like I could roll over and sleep more or wake up and savor each Sunday moment.  I usually take an inventory of my day in those few moments and relish that it’s Sunday…because any other day of the week has me running around meeting deadlines and borrowing stress.

I like the anticipation of Sunday.  When the Sunday-day is done, I’m already excited for the next one to come around.

I want students to experience this…with me…in my classroom…in my school community.  I think some of the biggest challenges is the schedule itself.  How many times is your after lunch period totally on carb-overload or your 1st period students embodying characters from The Walking Dead?  I understand that there are various limitations to each class period, but, beyond that…I’m talking about that Sunday morning possibility of what is to come…that is what I want my students to feel…to anticipate.

So much of what we do in the classroom begins with how we set up emotional space, something not seen.  Making a point to learn students names, greeting each student, looking students in the eye, smiling at them, a quick fist-bump…anything…just so you can communicate to your student I SEE YOU.  It’s amazing how responsive students are to a positive space.  After a few weeks, defenses fall and you may even hear You’re not like other teachers or I really like this class or the one that will melt your heart: This is my favorite class of the day.  

Each day, each class period offers opportunity to create that space for students to be a part of our school/classroom community.  When they realize that it IS a safe spot, they begin to look forward to that period and hopefully, feel ready to connect to the content.

I’m not going to lie…it’s exhausting…when you have 6-7 periods a day and 35-42 students in each class, it can wear the sunniest teacher dispositions down.  However, when you realize that it’s YOUR class that most students in your last period of the day are looking forward to, we can self-talk and do our best version of “suck-it-up-buttercup.”  Because for those minutes in that period, to your students, this is their Sunday morning.  Run with it.  Give them the best you can so they leave anticipating the next time your class meets.  

And for you, dear colleague, it may be Monday, Thursday or Friday, but for you..Sunday is on its way.

2016-2017 School Year…ready or not, here it comes!

Bye-Bye Summer 2016.  It was nice knowing you!

August is the long goodbye, because even though it’s a few weeks until most schools begin, it’s the knowledge that it’s looming that seems to steal the peace of the last few weeks of summer.

However, there is also the excitement of a new school year.  New students.  New school supplies.  New classroom decor.  Endless opportunity for progress for both teacher and students.

For some, myself included, the new year means a new job description and all the unknowns that can go along with this “newness.”  I am an Instructional Coach this school year and while I’m thrilled with the opportunity, I am a bit nervous because I will definitely be out of my ELA comfort zone.  I will be working with teachers from content areas that I avoided like the plague in high school and college.  I mean, I cried when I passed the-last-math-class-ever as an undergrad!  So the idea of working in these classes has me freaked out a bit and spending much time researching strategies and ways to implement Common Core across the curriculum.

My goal is to create a place to gather resources that I hope others can use as well.

Thanks for reading…especially to my teacher friends who are likely to be searching for classroom ideas on their own time and quite possibly still be in their pajamas drinking coffee or wine (it’s 5pm somewhere!) in the comfort of home…enjoying the very last moments of Summer 2016!

Hello world!