“Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.” -Chinese Proverb.
If this proverb is true, why is there so much resistance to change in education?
Not a day goes by where I don’t see some sort of pushback to Common Core. Whether it’s a parent on Facebook that posts a “stupid question” from their child’s homework, a viral video that elicits unpleasant comments, or a political debate about their purpose or validity, Common Core Standards continue to be a contentious topic across the state.
Parents in particular seem to have the most difficulty with the new standards. I recently did an informal Facebook survey asking them to share their frustrations. They delivered honest answers that helped me better understand their issues. Here is what they said:
“It is frustrating that I feel like I can’t help my child when she needs it.”
“They have no math books and I am always afraid of teaching her to do it the wrong way when she needs help. There are never any examples on the pages and I know this "new math" is all about the process and there is a lot of work to get to an answer… I guess my concern is that she will lose her love of math when what is a simple problem to her turns into 5 steps that seem unnecessary (to her) and just extra work.”
“From my point of view it's not straight forward. I can't look at their homework & know how to help them. And since I'm not in class while it's being taught.....kinda makes Mom look (& feel) stupid in front of her kids. 2+2=4 regardless if you're counting apples, oranges, or kittens. I'm all for showing how you got the answer but it’s hard if I can't figure out what the question is.”
“I find homework to be very frustrating as do my kids. And if they continue the common core method for math, then parents need to be educated as well. I personally think it’s pointless anyway. If I’m going to compute a tip for a bill at dinner, I’m going to do mental math to figure it out. Not pull out a binder and pencil and sit for another hour to figure out what 20% is.”
One parent said they prefer to use method of “common sense instead of common core” in their home and continued with, “I think you can still teach deep thinking without marking answers wrong for doing it a different way.”
As a parent myself, I empathize with these statements because no one wants to struggle to help their own children. No one wants to take a longer route to solve a problem when a shorter one is at their disposal. Most importantly, no one wants to see their child wrestle with a concept that just doesn’t come naturally for them. As a teacher, though, I know that this transition is important as we dig deeper into concepts and teach children the value of the little voice inside their heads. Too many generations have been out of touch with the complexity of our thought processes. We know how to do things but do we know why they work?
What I have realized through conversations with teachers and parents is that people are more frustrated with the resources we use to teach Common Core than they are with the standards themselves. Every annoyance is related to math and the frustration with the lack of a textbook, of examples, or of support in general. I agree that the resources we have available are substandard, but I am optimistic that they will improve over time. But is it fair to blame the standards because of weak materials? If you were trying to build a desk with the wrong tools, would you blame the instructions?
Perhaps we need to provide more education about what Common Core Standards are and what they are not. This video http://vimeo.com/110807219 explains “Why Math is Different Now” and this one http://vimeo.com/51933492 helps you “Learn about the Common Core in 3 Minutes.” http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/ is a great resource as well, including a page about What Parents Should Know http://www.corestandards.org/what-parents-should-know/ here.
I get it. Change is hard. But imagine where we would be if generations before us resisted transition. We might still be using a quill and scroll to write because pencils would encourage mistakes. Or worse, we wouldn’t even be writing. The early act of writing was frowned upon because critics thought it would “produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory” and that “Students’ trust in it would discourage the use of their own minds.” Think about that.
Yes, Common Core is different than the way we learned, but shouldn’t we celebrate that and see it as progression? Yes, it is awkward for kids to explain their thinking, but don’t we want them to be aware of their thought processes and understand the importance of metacognition? Yes, it is harder to help our kids with their homework, but should we really be helping them as much as we feel like we need to?
Kids are very capable of meeting our expectations, but most of the time, our expectations are way too low. We don’t want them to struggle, so we spoon-feed them exactly what they need to be successful. We get anxious if they have to solve problems on their own, so we solve as much as we can for them. We anticipate that they are too young to understand, so we don’t even bother to try and teach them. We have limited our kids to learning at the surface, giving them just enough to get by without ever letting them dig deeper. Common Core is our opportunity to change that. Our old standards were a mile wide and an inch deep and the new standards are just the opposite. Let’s take this opportunity to add rigor to our day. Let’s give kids a chance to think deeply and persevere in their learning.
It’s about time, and I mean that in more ways than one. It’s about the time we can finally give kids so they can grapple with concepts and construct their own understanding. It’s about time that we changed the “fly by” teaching that we have had to do to cover too much ground at once. It will take time for everyone to adjust, but adjustment comes much faster without resistance. “Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.” -Chinese Proverb.
Maybe it’s time to accept it and move forward.
So, what’s your problem with the Common Core? I would love to hear your thoughts on this so please comment honestly below in a judgment free zone.