Let’s start talking about shared core values, not common standards, please. My colleagues, my students, their parents, my own children…  none of them are “common” or “standard.” This sentiment isn’t new to anyone who is serious about education and has done it for any length of time, or to anyone who has children of their own. But despite what professionals in the field know about the job they do and what it can require; despite what parents know about their own children; despite what is sometimes even known by those attempting to turn an obligation to educate into market opportunities: efforts to standardize rage on.In order to initiate true reform, we need to move away from talk of compliance and accountability for someone else’s standards and begin a discussion about our shared values.

We need to move away from talk of compliance and accountability for someone else's standards and begin a discussion about our shared values. Click To Tweet

I value being a teacher and a union member, and serve as president of our local’s association. I came relatively late to teaching and had a variety of work life and experiences that started very young, but I ended up where I was meant to be and somehow managed to find the right woman have three incredibly bright daughters. I want the same world of respect and opportunity for my students as I want for own family. Because I grew up a little wild and dangerous,  I bring to parenting, teaching and union activism an approach and a perspective that is not standard. I proudly defend an endeavor and a profession that can never truly be standardized, because “standard” is such a foolish expectation.

When you talk about individuals, teams, and humans in general, “standard” loses to dynamic and varied, and especially when it comes to educating the public there needs to be flexibility and choice: guided by the dynamic and unpredictable students’ needs, parents’ priorities, and by capable professionals from the wide variety of disciplines within education who are professionals-prepared to serve a wide variety of student types. So unions, protecting those professionals and the possibilities they bring to learners and promoting that wide variety of approaches that will lead to dynamic groups of future citizens, are not the problem.

The real problems come in the awkward education-reform narrative that includes “doublespeak” use of  words like “standards” (read “unrealistic and uncompromising demands”) and “choice” (read “we choose the customers we want”). Their standards; their tests; their “choice”, and while the narrative is woven on blogs and in the press that carries the anti-public schools message, it gets a little more Orwellian when defending misguided reforms. To paraphrase:

If you oppose the attack on teachers and their unions then you oppose parents and children.

Using high-stakes test is the way to know how much a child has learned, and what value is provided in the education students are receiving.

But more parents, students, teachers and even policy makers (out of self preservation, probably) are starting to realize and admit that attacking public schools and the teaching profession is not a path to better student outcomes-which is what we all truly want-right? Better outcomes for students is a shared value. It is an outcome that will only be arrived at if we collaborate and think critically about issues and the world around us (a supposed goal of the new standards). These learner qualities can be best supported through strong skills and depth of experiences in reading-in all settings and for all purposes, but mainly for pleasure.

So, in honor of Orwell, Poe, The Hardy Boys, Alice Walker, Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare, The Big red barn in the great green field, Stephen King, Encyclopedia Brown…and so many many more than I could ever or did ever count: let’s talk about what I would call one of the most important shared values: students, adults, and leaders (present and future) who can read and think effectively.

How we can best make sure we realize that shared value? It will require dynamic school, home, and community teams pooling resources and talents. There are more common core values to come, but I start here:

Common Core Value 1: Encouraging children to read, think, talk and sing.
1A.1 Read in front of them. Read to them. Watch them read. Ask them about what they read. Listen to them read to you. Read together. Practice reading together passing the book back and forth.

1A.2 When they are tiny, read with them on your lap, reclined in a chair and with your child in the spot between your arm and your side, with your child’s head just under your shoulder and the book where you can both see.

1A.3 When they are tiny, point to the words that sound really familiar-the ones used frequently when you speak. Point to illustrations that go with the words. Point to and name familiar and interesting things in the illustrations and ask them “Where is the …. “, then have them point it out.

1A.4 Have bookshelves full of books- various books. Magazines too-have a magazine subscription or two if you can afford to (Highlights, National Geographic for kids, etc) and if you can’t afford subscriptions-get issues second-hand to keep around… Limit TV. time and video game time.

1A.5 Listen to a wide variety of music. Tell stories, sing songs, and expect “lights out” by 8:30…but stretch it ‘til 9 if they are reading quietly.

Good readers become great thinkers.

Good readers become great thinkers. Click To Tweet

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