For the last few years, an acronym has been dancing around every school in the country. This acronym has created great excitement or tremendous skepticism, depending on your exposure to it. I also believe the level of anxiety one feels towards this collection of letters is directly proportional to the professional development supplied by your district on the topic. This change in curriculum is heralded as "the great leveler", so students can get an equal shot at mastering content from Washington state to Florida. This is the solution to all of public education's problems, just give it time. So they say.
No, I am not referring to HIB, AchieveNJ, SGOs, SGPs, RTTT or ASK. I am actually referring to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In short, these new standards are going to change what students need to know for each grade level by changing from the old way of "A mile wide and an inch deep" to "An inch wide and a mile deep." If it works, we shall see. That discussion will be left for another day.
What made me sit down to write was how the above two statements mirrored how I have been feeling in my classroom lately. I have started experimenting with a lot of different methods/techniques during the day: from project based learning to flipping classes to bringing technology into as many lessons as possible. Add to that my extreme interest in continuing to blog and learn from the great educators on Twitter, and I feel like a highly skilled juggler trying to keep everything in the air. By the way, I am a horrible juggler. No, it's bad!
That is when it hit me. Be like the CCSS. Focus on a couple of things this year (inch wide). I am going to pick what interests me the most and allow myself time to dig deep and learn as much as I can (mile deep). After some thought, I am focusing this year on two main goals: One, I am focusing on students learning more and state test preparation less. I would like to create portfolios for my students to monitor their own learning. I think by doing this, they will become engaged more in the classroom. They control what they learn. I want to see if by doing this, I can increase the involvement of my students in their learning.
The second area I am focusing on for this year is improving as a connected learner. As I mentioned above, I am going to continue to blog and participate in Twitter chats, but I am going to involve both my students and parents on my journey as well. In addition, I would like to seek out alternate ways of reaching out to parents. I would like to use Skype and Google hangouts for conferences. I want to make it as easy as possible for the parents to stay informed about their child's growth.
Do not get me wrong. I am not abandoning everything else I do in my classroom. Also, I do not plan on dismissing the two goals above with new ones next year, but merely replace them. By the end of this school year, I am hopeful that my two goals will be established routines for me during the day. That will give me an opportunity to bring in two more goals or strategies the following year.
This suggestion may not be for everyone, but I am sick of being a "Jack of all trades, master of none." I would really like to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter: @jcordery.