First Common Myth: Common Core and the Uniformed Burden It Carries (Part 2)

As promised, I’m starting my series about the misunderstandings that Common Core carries around with it, and I’d like to start with one aspect of negativity about the core that I feel really strongly about.

Myth: We don’t need the Common Core State Standards, our standards were fine as they were. Now, this post doesn’t necessarily apply to many other states, but Mississippi surely could benefit from the new standards, and here is my evidence:

Source: Rethink Mississippi

Source: Rethink Mississippi

Just in one Facebook status, “Stop Common Core in Mississippi” could have improved their writing by following at least 7 standards. This speaks for itself. Also, if you look at the standards listed here, I can’t find any evil in them.


Puppy Dog Eyes: Common Core and the Uninformed Burdens it Carries (Part 1)



I once had a parent tell me that the Common Core State Standards were “actually created by Hitler” and “Obama’s most recent way to brainwash our children.” Trying to reason with this woman was like trying to put a cold, wet bathing suit back on, nearly impossible. Though I never did get to a reasonable conclusion with this woman, she did get the wheels in my brain turning. How have the standards become so hated?

I’ve read the standards- a lot. I’ve studied them alone, in groups, with college professors. I’ve attended conferences and read books about them. I can’t find hitler, the devil, or any other evil in these standards no matter how hard I’ve tried.


While I understand that there are pros and cons to every venture, and Americans are never going to agree one-hundred percent on the Common Core initiative, we have to draw the line somewhere, right? Misinformed conclusions are being drawn about Common Core State Standards constantly. In fact, someone probably just made a misinformed decision about the matter as I was typing that sentence.

This is the first post in a series about the Common Core State Standards and all of the baggage that they carry with them. I’m not going to try to persuade you either way about the standards in this series, but I would like to invite you to take a look at the documents with me before jumping to absurd conclusions from something you’ve read on the internet, or gossip you heard at the grocery store, or a speech you heard a self-serving politician make. Your opinion is valid and respected, but only if it is driven by logical reasoning and evidence.

Stay tuned for the first post. Feel free to comment below to request specific topics relating to Common Core. I’d love your input on the content of this series.


Not For Your Beach Bag: 5 Summer Reading Books for Professional Development



During the summer, a lot of us teachers really want to enjoy the beach, our children, do some gardening and other activities that are absolutely fun and necessary. However, I find it equally important to continue my professional journey during my free-time. I like to use my summer to have a lot of fun, but also to grow myself professionally. And I don’t find this notion of continuing to work during the summer ridiculous for teachers, after all, we are pretty much kicked out of the school, but we’re still getting paid.

This summer, I may have gone a bit overboard, as I just finished the South Mississippi Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute, and I’m signed up for several other professional development workshops. Regardless, I’ve compiled a list of professional reading for myself, and I’m sharing them with you in case you’re looking for a small way to stay connected to your classroom over the long and lonely months of summer.

1. Inside Out: Strategies for Teaching Writing

I actually just finished reading Inside Out for the second time in my professional career. It was the textbook in my composition for teachers class at the University of Southern Mississippi when I was still working toward my degree. I re-read it recently as one of the books for study at the South Mississippi Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute, both times I truly enjoyed the book.

What I love the most about Inside Out is that it is not a list of lessons to implement in your classroom. It is a guide to creating effective strategies in your classroom. Don’t get me wrong, the authors produce tons of ideas that you can borrow and implement in your classroom, but there is a lot of room left for your strategic thought about what your classroom needs. I would recommend this book for anyone in any subject or grade band, but it is a staple for a Language Arts teacher.

I’ll be posting an in-depth review of this book soon, so if you are interested in learning more about it, stay tuned.

2. Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator

I started reading this book last week for a book study that is being offered in my district. So far, I’m enjoying the content, and the book is a super easy read. I particularly recommend this book for summer reading because the book is all about increasing student engagement and grasping their attention from the start.

Again, this book isn’t about handing out pre-made materials to implement in your classroom. Rather, it is a motivational book written by a successful educator, and it will definitely make you think critically about your classroom strategies.

I will also be posting a full in-depth review of this book later this summer, stay tuned!

3. The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher

It is really hard to be an educator without having heard about Harry Wong‘s best selling book The First Days of School. Especially if you are a new teacher, or a teacher looking to improve classroom management strategies, or just a teacher who hasn’t read the book; then The First Days of School is a must read.

Harry Wong is incredibly inspiring and effective in laying out specific musts for gaining control of your classroom from day one. His insights are accurate and effective and best of all, they are based off of actual experience. All of us should reflect on our experience as a teacher, even veterans. Harry Wong’s book is a powerful tool to push that reflection in the right direction.

4. Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High Quality Units

If you are interested in developing your strategies for lesson plans, unit plans, and overall student learning then this book is definitely one to consider. Most undergraduate programs teach backward design, but reading it from these authors offers a whole new, in-depth, and focused understanding of the concept. It is also a great book to read during the summer because you can implement the ideas before you’ve begun to develop your units for the next school year.

5. The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child

If you’ve never heard of Ron Clark, then I invite you to do a little youtube search and listen to him talk for just a moment. He is an incredibly inspiring educator who has absolutely earned his right in the field. If you haven’t ever heard of Ron Clark, then you might just be thinking that 55 rules is ridiculously excessive, but give him a shot.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ron Clark speak last August just before school started, and his words truly changed the attitude of our school for the better. Later in the school year, many of our teacher traveled to visit Ron Clark’s academy, and their testimonies show that his rules truly work to make his students more successful. My colleagues described students who actively engage in intellectual conversations, looking you straight in the eye, and remembering your name later in the day. It might seem excessive, but his rules are certainly worth giving a read.

Teacher Inquiry: Self Preservation

This year was my first full year of teaching, and I couldn’t have felt more prepared to teach these youngsters all things fabulous than I did on the first day of school. I had received the absolute best training, read and studied all the best and newest research, and been mentored by the most fabulous teachers during my student teaching. And for the first few months, everything went great for me, I felt like I was doing an acceptable job. That’s not to say that there weren’t bumps in the road because there WERE bumps, but overall I felt like my kids were really getting what I was teaching them.

Then, it was time to write an argument essay, and by golly was I prepared. I had mentor texts, I had highlighters, I had standards typed up, and I was ready to go! Passionately I presented my kids with all of the materials I had so carefully planned. Surely these materials would help them write arguments with ease! Boy was I wrong. The kids were confused, mouthy, and downright ridiculous. It was the first moment this year that I thought “wow, what am I doing wrong?” The year had many more similar ups and downs, sometimes things went great and sometimes they spiraled out of control so fast I didn’t know what had hit me.

Because of this year’s experience, I’ve begun looking at a lot of research on the idea of teacher inquiry as a regular practice in classrooms around the U.S. Nancy Fichtman Dana, Belinda G. Gimbert, and Diane Yendol Silva define teacher inquiry best in their article “Teacher Inquiry as Professional Development for the 21st Century in the United States.” They say “the idea of inquiry embodies how teachers make explicit and probe their wanderings, reframe and modify their questions and enlighten their perceptions and sense-making of their classroom practice.” Teachers can and should be in charge of their own professional development- it’s how we grow.

The author’s of this article point out that for a long time educational decisions have been made based off of research conducted by people immersed in a world that is far from the classroom. But, when teachers live a life of inquiry, when they ask questions about problems that occur in their classrooms, they move education forward in a way that is specific to the real problems of education. We shouldn’t blindly follow the strategies handed to us by university scholars, so removed from the classroom. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen respectfully to what they have to say, but that there should be a balance between teachers as professional problem solvers and university scholars as educational researchers.

This next year, I’m going to live the life of the inquirer. I will ask questions and face classroom problems head on. I do not need strategies, or a textbook, or any sort of instruction manual beyond exploring the needs of my students and catering my research to those needs.

Will you join me in living the life of inquiry?


You’re Invited

Several months ago, I received some very exciting news; I had been invited to the South Mississippi Writing Project summer institute. It is truly an honor.The National Writing Project invites teachers who have been identified as distinguished teachers of writing by their peers, and after the institute, teachers are expected to become teaching consultants. As teaching consultants, we will guide teachers in all walks of teaching in effective teaching practices, and I couldn’t be more excited.

At the beginning of this year, I would have never imagined I’d be living the life I am living this week. I am truly in teacher heaven. We’ve been reading pedagogy about teaching writing and discussing it (which is the best part), and we’ve been writing a lot, a whole lot. The premise is that to be a good teacher of writing, you must also feel confident in your own writing.

I’ve been generating a lot of fun material, some which I might share here later after some serious re-working. I’m also planning on reviewing some of the relevant books and articles I’ve been reading. Stay Tuned, there is so much more to come!