My husband and I have been in Paris for the last three weeks, overdosing on art, food and, of course, delicious wine. The problems at home in the schools seemed so far away. How relaxing it has been to spend my time contemplating Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa and Renoir’s Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette rather than the sickness of high stakes testing or the anxieties caused by an obsession with the Common Core Learning Standards.
However life, real life, has found a way of creeping in to remind me of the educational problems back home. My history as a long time early childhood educator and my present work as a consultant working with early childhood teachers, demands that I help to find a way of confronting the misguided edicts that are polluting our public schools.
Yesterday I received an email from my niece, my sister’s daughter. Joey is the mother of three wonderful, active and inquisitive children. They live in a suburban town in New Jersey. I don’t often hear from Joey and so, when I received her message, I knew at once that this must be something important. Joey and her husband Rob are very involved with their family. They enroll the children in sports programs and dance classes. Joey began reading to them when they were infants. She’s never been a political activist but when I read her note to me I realized that she is about to embark on a major struggle in support of what she knows is best for her children.
Here’s Joey’s note to me:
I would like some advice.
I am not happy with the Common Core. Actually, most parents here are not. I kept telling them, “we can keep complaining to each other, or we can do something”.
I am not 100% sure what to do. I thought start small by getting as many of these parents together and having them speak at the next PTA meeting. Unfortunately, our principal is not one who cares about the students as much as he cares about pleasing those above him.
Robert and Michael are doing well, but does a 3rd – grader need to know about checks and balances? Does a 5th grader need to start being prepped for the SAT test by learning Greek and Latin and getting rid of a second language to push this?
And I fear for Lauren’s education. She is only into one month of kindergarten, and cries that there are no toys. She comes home with work sheets galore.
I ran from NY because I watched my son’s (then in 1st and 3rd grade) come home flushed from sitting in their seat all day working and working. Or how they would come home, after having no recess only having to do more work and not get time to play.
Now, living here, recess has been cut 5 minutes, what will next year bring?
My sons have no time to finish their lunch, because I guess eating is no longer important.
There was nothing sent home over the summer to bridge them into this new curriculum, the teachers are frustrated with their district deadlines, and the kids are stressed. I fear a generation of antidepressants and suicides.
Okay, having said all of that… Where do I begin?
Thanks for reading my rant:) and if you can give me any advice, I would greatly appreciate it.
I made a plan to speak with Joey when I get back from my vacation on October 22nd. That doesn’t give me much time to come up with a practical solution or advice for action! I’ve sent her a link to the Alliance for Childhood so that she can read about an organization that is advocating to bring play back into the curriculum .I also sent her a link to the New Jersey Common Core Standards so that she can familiarize herself with the standards that teachers must now use to guide their planning and instruction.
I know of principals in New York City who are working diligently to satisfy their higher-ups while also being careful to insure that teachers follow a developmentally appropriate curriculum in their classrooms. These leaders, however, are few and far-between. There seems to be a McCarthy-like
fear that is permeating the system, intimidating administrators, terrorizing teachers, creating stressed-out children and, from what I gather from Joey’s note, frustrating and confusing parents.
I’m reaching out to all of the educators, parents, grandparents and friends of children who read this blog. Do you have suggestions for how I can respond and support Joey and the other parents in her school? What can parents and teachers do to be sure that their children attend public schools where learning is fun, exciting, and explorative? Is it possible for parents, teachers, administrators and other educational leaders to find a common ground where they can dialogue on the role that the Common Core Standards plays in our present educational environment?