Common Sense Standard (CSS) #3

Katy BurkeUncategorized

Group of PLCers having fun together in the music room

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(See the first post in this series – Common Sense Learning.)

Education should be shaped around the students, not the other way around.

When I taught in a public high school, my colleagues and I were often given opportunities to write curriculum for our respective departments for a fee. Not only did it seem like the curricula were continually being written and rewritten, but this task almost always felt like a shot in the dark. Sure, we had the Common Core as our guide, but converting the standards into practical lessons for the classroom was akin to translating cuneiform. To be honest, though I enjoyed the creative process of writing curriculum, deciding what students would learn from year to year was quite arbitrary. Educators spend a lot of time and energy figuring out what to teach and how to teach it. Schools invest in an eclectic collection of programs, tech, and resources. But at the end of the day, the most powerful resources in our communities are the people themselves. We should be investing most of all in kids and their inborn talents and passions.

I use to love to put my headphones on, head out for a run, and play this song. I deeply, firmly, believe that “everybody [has] their something,” at least one special something to offer. I see it all around me. Konstantine is a filmmaker. Isabella loves math and aced PreCalculus at community college at 14 years old. Nat designs games and manages groups of people to play them. Kai takes beautiful photos. Ryan is great with numbers and reasoning. Lorne is natural and fluid at anything physical from swimming to piano playing. Joey has a powerful voice and the confidence to use it. Sophia is a master organizer. Quinlan is a skilled artist whose drawings are simultaneously lovely and edgy. Jacob is super talented at playing the drums, bass and guitar. Kimi has a mind for business and a heart for human rights. Nathaniel is passionate about health, movement and the outdoors. These are all real kids–just some of the teens I’ve gotten to know at our center. They all have something to contribute to the world.

The role of the educator is not to inject that something in, but to draw it out. Therefore, the curricula at any given school, center, or home, should be a direct reflection of the individual strengths and needs of current students. This of course, requires a lot of flexibility as the student body changes, which, sure, can be messy, but I am convinced that it is less messy and far more effective than spinning our wheels year after year.