It's that time of year for me. I've been planning a week-long workshop centered around making the Common Core matter in the lives of students for 70 teachers about to start the 2012-2013 school year. Last week, I was in Chicago planning partnerships with 70 other National Writing Project consultants. In and among all of this, I've been planning for my freshman composition course this fall.
What strikes me about all of this planning (other than how much FUN it is) is that my plans would never be the same without the community of educators I have around me that are as hyped up about planning as I am.
And then I'm sad, and even angry, about how isolating teaching K-12 can be. We get shut up in our own buildings and classrooms. Any interaction with other teachers is often scripted by administrations in this era of "ridding ourselves of bad teachers." It's so rare for many teachers in many schools to have the time and space to plan, to do what teachers do, to come up with creative, awesome plans for their students that make the teacher jump out of her chair and do a little dance because they are just so excited about what comes next. (Okay, maybe I'm the only one who actually does that.)
Instead, teachers are forced to fill out forms in meetings to prove that they are "hitting" standards each day. Standards are certainly an important part of our planning, but something is very, very wrong when those standards suck the life and joy out of the planning process as they seem to do in many of our schools with the highest needs. In my experience, the teachers in "high needs" schools are some of the most creative and enthusiastic when it comes to meeting their students where they are and getting them to where they need to be, and yes, meeting standards. However, they have to do all of that off the clock and behind closed doors. And when they are "caught" doing it, they are labeled as "resistant" and "problematic," the same labels the students they teach carry with them.
And as a nation we continue to wonder where all of the "good" teachers have gone. It doesn't matter what standards we write and how great they are if we fail to recognize the professionalism, creativity and brilliance of our teachers.