It’s all about engagement

I agree whole heartedly with this piece’s (from the Washington Post) argument that meaningful schooling is all about engagement.

And I agree as well that the testing movement (and all the stakes attached to those test scores) can get in the way of meaningful engagement in the classroom.

But I do not necessarily agree that the Common Core State Standards will be “another nail in the engagement coffin” as the writer suggests. It will all depend on how a teacher/school/district chooses to implement the CCSS. Implementation through canned, purchased curricula may certainly lead to boring classrooms that do not respond to the individual students in the classroom and their needs and interests.

A great teacher can teach any set of standards with the ultimate goal of student engagement. Teachers only need space and time and autonomy and professional respect to accomplish that.

These things are not always there for teachers of course.

And I wonder what this writer would say about the inclusion of nonfiction that the CCSS asks for. I can read between the lines here. The author only discusses literary texts as the avenue to engagement. And yes, those texts if taught for the goal of engagement can lead to it (they can also be taught in mind-numbingly boring ways too). But let me tell you–Krakauer’s Into the Wild has genuinely engaged my students for example. Nonfiction can also work on our students’ social imagination, their sense of social justice, their empathy, just as literature can.

But it will all depend on how schools and districts ask teachers to implement the CCSS. I’m still waiting to see what that will look like. I have a good idea of what to expect in my district (and I’m not too worried about implementing the CCSS–in many ways my classroom is already focused on what those standards ask for).

I AM worried about what my state will use to test the standards. The jury is still out on that. We won’t know for many months.

So we wait and we worry (or not). I’m trying to keep focused now on the advent of a new school year, only a few weeks away. Focused on how to improve on how things went last year. Focused on ways figure out who my students are so that I can craft a classroom experience that invites their meaningful engagement. Focused on ways to work together with my wicked smart colleagues so we may build all of our classrooms to be stronger than they have been before. Focused on ways to hold on to the relaxed, calm state I’ve achieved here in vacation so I can stay as calm and relaxed as possible once the crazy gets started.

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