by David Safier
I don't know a whole lot about Rafe Esquith who, according to the intro to an interview in Ed Week (subscription only), "is the only teacher to have been awarded the president's National Medal of the Arts," and has a whole lot of honors next to his name. I probably should know more about him, especially after reading his take on the Common Core:
The Common Core is another Stalinesque five-year plan that will have little effect on creating opportunities for a child. All good teachers believe in standards and goals. All good teachers believe students should be assessed to make sure they are grasping important concepts.
The Common Core, as with other schemes, fails to address the most important reasons why so many students are not doing as well as we would like. Poverty, family dysfunction, and decaying societal values have far more to do with student failure than a set of standards. We can dress up standards any way we like. But 3 times 5 is still 15, and you still have to put a period at the end of a sentence. As long as our society values the Kardashians more than people trying to cure cancer, we are going to see millions of children fail to become real scholars.
My advice to teachers is to go to the Common Core meetings as I do, smile, nod your head, and jump through the latest hoops. But while you are jumping, make sure your students know the most valuable things you can teach them are not a part of the Common Core: Integrity, a joy of learning, and the taking of risks are not a part of the Common Core training, but they are essential skills I hope my students internalize.
The interview quoted this from Esquith's new book, "Real Talk for Real Teachers":
"Teach your students that all great books are about them . At all levels of school, we teachers must constantly read with the kids and help them connect the dots between the printed page and their own lives."
Amen to that. Great books are written by people with an uncommon understanding of the human condition. To get students to relate to them, they should be taught as part of the human experience, not as hallowed pieces of writing that should be treated with awe.