My classroom is different now from what it was a year ago. The desks are still arranged the same way. Room 12 is where it has always been. I have the same teaching assignment: U.S. History, American Government, and Psychology. I haven’t really changed anything about the room, physically. I have changed my bulletin boards to reflect some new teaching strategies. However, things are happening in this room that have never happened before.
The changes I see in my classroom have energized me as a teacher. They are the result of Idaho Core Standards (ICS). Finally I can teach the way I have always wanted to. Classroom conversations are more in-depth. The students work at a much higher level. The classroom environment has become more challenging, yet at the same time it is more highly engaging.
The most dynamic change has occurred in the midst of classroom and small group discussions. Before practicing these principles, I could make a statement and no one would either question, or seem to care. Now if I make a statement or claim, it is not long before a student will as me (sometimes literally, but more often sarcastically), “Mr. K, can you provide evidence that warrants your claim?” “How do we know your facts are valid, reliable and/or true” Or my favorite, “Prove it, Mr. K.”
I am learning to be more patient as a teacher. Despite my desire to power through my material and keep on schedule because, “I need to make it to WWII by Christmas break!”…I am beginning to appreciate the value of inquiry. By applying the Core I have learned to appreciate questions more. I feel comfortable taking time in class, not to merely answer them, but to challenge the students to analyze the direction a questions might be taking us. Along with the students, I am learning that questions have more value than answer and lead to far more in-depth critical thinking.
When I asked students if they have noticed a change in their experience, I received a wide variety of responses. Many are still note aware that the Core is being implemented. Others said things like, “it affects our writing,” and “I have seen it in math: the way my teacher explains how problems need to be solved.” Also students have sensed their classrooms changing, but were not completely aware of how and why. One eleventh grade girl told me, “I didn’t even know it (was happening already), it just seemed we were moving up.” Still another captured the key objective of the Core best when she said, “I’ve noticed more analyzing, not just remembering. We get to see real-life application and the way information gets used.”
I am more passionate about teaching than I have been in years. I anticipate that when teachers accept ICS with an open mind and enthusiasm for the positive change it can bring to Idaho’s schools, we will have real and positive results that even the most skeptical onlookers will soon be excited about.