way leading on to way

I’ve been listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ album, The Heist, a lot lately.

I’m not sure if that is either here nor there or if it has to do with anything. It’s just been my thinking music lately.

Anyway, I’m feeling…I don’t know what. Frustrated? Disappointed?  Sad. I’m feeling sad.

Last week I wrote about why the Common Core Standards are not evil. Of course, after that, I ended up seeing about fifty posts about why they are basically the anti-Christ.

I lost sleep over those posts.

I cried.

Why can’t they understand? Why can’t *I* make them understand?

Friday night, after midnight, I finally closed my Chromebook, and took my upset, worry-filled tummy to bed.  And tossed and turned all night.  I fretted all day Saturday.

I was encouraged to write another piece.

I don’t know.

Lately I feel like I am standing next to a huge…giant…ENORMOUS mountain.  If I squint, I can see the top through the fog and clouds. At the top I see a spot that I would totally look good on. I would be comfortable there. And I know, I KNOW I would rock that spot on the top of the mountain.

But then I let me eyes travel down from that spot on the top. Down the side, over the cliffs and crags, over and under the dangers and perils, until I get to my own two feet at the bottom of the mountain.

I look around me a the rather large hills that I climb each day. Some times I run up them and stand at the top with my arms raised.  Other times I pull myself up by sheer will power.

Other days I don’t quite make it to any of the tops of those hills.

And then I look back up that mountain.

I am so small.

I am just one person.

The internet is not my job. It’s not even my full-time hobby or passion.

Over the past six+ years, I have accumulated a small audience. A community I love. People out there who support my writing and push me forward in this thing called life with love and words.

But we are a small speck of the internet.

I’ve always been Ok with that because it’s never been my intent to leave teaching for writing. It’s never been my dream or goal to write a book. I have no intention of leaving this space behind, but I don’t have any plans to make a drastic life change either. I love to teach.

Let me say it again: I love to teach.

The Common Core is not my passion; teaching students is my passion.

I have a lot…a LOT…I could say in response to the outrage and rants out there on the internet by people who are not currently in education and who are basing their opinion of the Common Core on implementation strategies and procedures they are seeing in their schools or have “heard about”.

But the internet–and all those looking for a scandal and another reason to hate public schools–are not going to listen to me, a small blogger who happens to be a teacher.

No one cares about my credentials (over a decade of teaching experience, BA in English, MA with an emphasis on teaching English, member of the National Writing Project via the Third Coast Writing Project, member of the National Council of Teachers of English, high school English teacher, and adjunct English instructor at our local community college).

The fact is I am not going to write the next viral post on education.

Because posts that tell people about the good stuff that is going on due to a government-mandated change rarely go viral. Those posts get ten or so pat-on-the-back comments from people who already read that blog (which I love, by the way) and then the internet moves on to what it can be outraged about next.

If I could, I would take the internet into my district, into my school, and into my classroom. I would show you my students and their writing. I would introduce you to the families and the community.  I would let you see our brutal reality, but show you how we do such SUCH positive things every single day while following the Common Core. I would invite you to a department meeting, a staff meeting, a student meeting.

Shoot, forget about the Common Core. I don’t even care about it. What I care about is public education. I care about changing the perspective. I care about fixing the system.

I care about teaching kids. I care about making their future better.

I could climb that mountain and I could get to the top and I could be loud and proud up there.

But it’s just a big mountain.

And I’m so small.

So I will turn away from that mountain and leave it for another day.  Although, as my man Robert Frost said in a poem that is sort of famous, I know how “way leads on to way” and that I will probably  never come back.

I’d look good on top of that mountain.  I would.

But I can’t abandon the hills for the cause–or pride- of climbing a mountain.

*************

On a totally different note, my friend Jennifer P. Williams is at the tail end of her 31 days of cookies series and yesterday she posted a recipe I sent her for Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies.

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About Katie Sluiter

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a high school English teacher, college adjunct instructor, freelance writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I really hoped to see your counter on those posts. I know you would have presented a good argument for the Common Core Standards.

    But I absolutely understand where you’re coming from. Focus on your energies on what matters – your students. xo

    • I might still write it. I don’t know. What I know is it’s the last week of the first marking period and I have seniors I need to focus on. They need my full attention. They need me to be prompt with the grading. They need me to be here and not on a cause, ya know?

      And there you have the great Catch-22 of a teacher’s life. If we work for the cause, we are not giving our students our full attention, but if we don’t take up the cause, we are doing our students…and ourselves…a major disservice.

      And so the public misinformation lives on.

  2. I love this Katie. This message can apply to so many things. I have had this problem in the past, the getting absorbed by all of the big things and feeling so helpless. I have to remind myself that I may not be able to change things in a BIG way, but small ripples can have a bigger impact than I can ever see. You keep talking and sharing what is important to you. You may not be able to see it, but you are opening minds and changing hearts.

    • I came to the decision in church yesterday that it’s not how loud I yell about something, but how I live my life. How I do my job.

      So that is what I am doing.

      I hope people notice, but if they are going to be distracted about what they can be pissed off about next, then I can’t help them.

  3. One step at a time… even your blog post is climbing a little mountain in your own way. You are climbing mountains, even though it doesn’t feel like it. You’re doing what’s important to you. Hugs.

    • Thanks, Heather.

      The real people that stand in front of me every day need my 100% focus and effort. If the rest of the world can hear my message through my actions, awesome. But I’m done yelling.

  4. Common Core: it’s just something else that we all have different opinions on. And some people’s are so strong there isn’t going to be a way to sway them(in either direction).

    My boys go to a wonderful public school. I was a public school teacher for seven years before they were born. I tend to give more of the benefit of the doubt to their teachers because of this. And I know that often, teachers simply have to do what they are told(don’t get me started on the importance that was placed on our end-of-grade testing over the performance we’d see all year in the classroom).

    But my boys’ teachers are frustrated with Common Core, too. This is coming in the lower elementary grades where all of a sudden, the standards have changed. Not too bad if your child is entering kindergarten with these standards- but if they started school with one set of standards, met those and then moved onto the next grade where the new standards started and then were suddenly “behind,” it’s frustrating. My middle son’s teacher was rolling her eyes as she was explaining some of the goals that had to be met for first grade- the ones that didn’t make sense to me as a parent or her as teacher.

    I think what we have to remember with Common Core is that it’s not ALL good or ALL bad. Nothing is black and white, so why should this be?

    The focus should be on what each teacher can do for their students and what each parent can do to help their children at home.

    • I still disagree. It’s neither good nor bad. They are just standards.

      I get the frustration with having a 2nd grader (or teaching 2nd grade) and suddenly having to teach stuff you didn’t have to before. Suddenly having your kid need to be what is essentially a grade ahead of what he/she is. That is frustrating. But again, that is not the standards fault. That is the growing pains of making things different…and in some opinions, better.

      I teach 12th grade. These kids have been through ALL OF SCHOOL without these standards. Did you see the standards my students need to meet? Pile that on the fact that I teach in a very VERY at-risk, high-poverty district? Yeah, I have students who are not meeting the standards.

      But I still believe in the standards. I still have hope that they will make our system better. I have a son going into K next year. Fresh. Starting with the standards. I hope they standards will stay because if he gets through 12th grade with these? Oh the idea just gives me the tingles.

      Anyway, I am doing what I said I wouldn’t.

      I’m not going to try to convince people here. I’m going to teach my students and hopefully be an example of the positive.

      • I’m not really disagreeing with you the way you think I am. ;)

        There have been lots of changes in standards prior to this. I remember one year when I was teaching 3rd grade and the standards changed so that part of the math curriculum that used to be for 5th was now in 3rd. It enraged parents and had teachers worried(since we were judged on our test scores, sadly- and our students had no exposure in second to the skills they’d need for these new standards). But we rolled with doing it the best that we could.

        The only difference I see now is that before, parents/teachers were complaining about the changes coming down from the state. Something that someone in another state probably wouldn’t be concerned about. But now, the complaint is about something that the majority of the states are having to comply with. So the complaints seem more widespread.

        • you’re right. I think we agree more than I originally thought.

          If there is anything I have learned in my 12 years as a teacher it’s that this is the most frustrating and simultaneously rewarding career I think anyone can ever be in.

          • Agreed.

            I have been volunteering in my son’s third grade class this year, teaching math small groups plus general assistance during math time(it’s all individual as there are no whole class lessons- lessons are via a homework video). And I realize I really miss being in the classroom, getting to teach and help students. I loved teaching. Just not all the politics- that part, I hate.

        • >>The only difference I see now is that before, parents/teachers were complaining about the changes coming down from the state. Something that someone in another state probably wouldn’t be concerned about. But now, the complaint is about something that the majority of the states are having to comply with. So the complaints seem more widespread.<<

          This, exactly. I'm a teacher. I'm not a fan of Common Core. I liked our state standards. When there was a change or an issue with them, it seemed that enough complaints could get them fixed. We were able to mobilize within the state, but now, I think many of us are feeling like our hands are tied and also maybe feeling like things are being taken out of our control. But like always, I'll keep rolling with it and do the best I can for my students! I just don't think that being anti-CC is always anti-public education (although I definitely see the two tied together a lot and it makes me twitch).

          • I can totally TOTALLY understand this. There are some states that I KNOW the standards were already great and the rigor/expectations already high. I can see why having a change that seems unnecessary or even bar-lowering would be maddening. I’m thinking specifically of MA, but there are others too.

  5. I work for a school district so I too have seen a lot of frustration and irritation and outright anger.

    So I read up.

    I attended presentations.

    I asked the Assistant Supt. of Educational Services to explain it all to me as if I were twelve.

    I’ve come to the conclusion there are always going to be people resistant to and against any sort of change, no matter how positive that change may be. And, sadly, there are always going to be teachers who would rather talk crap about said change than embrace it. Unfortunately, when those teachers voice their negativity, it spreads like wildfire and burns out anyone who says, “Hey! Wait! I know it’s a little different, but it’s not evil.”

    The administrators at my district admit there are some subjects which are going to be more challenging – math for instance. Not because it’s going to be more difficult for the students, but because there isn’t a recognizable title for the parents. That’s literally the problem. Parents accustomed to the Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II titles are getting upset thinking their children are no longer going to learn the Pythagorean Theorem.

    Also, I think it’s interesting that this has been coming down the pipe for a very long time. It was on track back when I first started working for education in 2007, yet people are thinking this is some sort of partisan, political thing. Which I guess is just a snapshot of our country right now.

    *hugs*

    • It’s funny to me, too, that this is exploding now. We have been working on CCSS for, well, this is year three of implementation stuff.

      And if you look at the people yelling the loudest they are the ones who A) have always looked for things that are wrong with public education, B) are in states that had such low standards, that now that they need to move it on up, they are pissed that everyone isn’t just passing anymore, or C) people who just want to yell about either democrats or republicans and blah blah blah.

      And I totally agree with you on the title thing. Parents are afraid if they don’t see it written out that “your child will learn X, Y, and Z in math, science, and english” they are afraid it’s being “dropped” from the curriculum.

      Sigh.

      The thing about the internet is that we now have more outraged parents than ever…over stuff that is not a thing.

  6. The angriest voices get shared the most, it seems.
    Stay true and stay wise and who needs to hear you will find you.

  7. Katie, this is so well written. Thank you for loving to teach our kids. They really, really need you, and your job is so important no matter what the internet says about it. Ultimately, kids have to learn. Outrage isn’t going to help them do it better. But you will.

  8. What a great piece, Katie!
    Any kid would be lucky to have you as a teacher (wanna move to Canada and teach at my daughter’s high school?).
    Life is not easy for people who really care – but it’s worth it.

  9. Hey Katie! I’ve read your post on Common Core and have remained quiet, but this one I feel inclined to comment on. First, I have no desire to get into a disagreement with you (I like you too much for that!). Mainly, I just want to say: you want to reach those of us (myself included who fiercely oppose Common Core) and convince us to change our wayward thinking. But the funny thing is, I, too, want to reach people like you and convince you of all of the reasons I think Common Core is a terrible idea. But, I won’t. Because, in the end, that is what makes America a beautiful place, still. We don’t have to convince others. We live our life making educated decisions. Our experiences and beliefs are the backbone for our rationale for or against things like a standardized education. I know I could never give you enough satisfying reasons for why I hate Common Core, just like you will never convince me of it benefits. But, that is OK. In the end, you will return to your public school classroom and I will return to my vocation in homeschooling and the kids that we interact with each day will benefit greatly from both of our service. :) So, keep being the awesome teacher that you are and be at peace.

    • I really don’t have a desire to change minds of those who are educated and choose to oppose the common core for legit concerns (where I can understand there being many, especially if those oppositions are due to government stuffs). I have more of a desire for people to educate themselves before ranting about things. That is something you DO do. You don’t base your opinions simply on things you “heard”. You do your research, search your own feelings and beliefs, and form a stance. Many MANY are not doing that. They are looking for a new reason to villainize (is that a word?) public schools and public school teachers. And people who clump all public schools and their teachers into one category and call them all “bad” offend me because it is VERY personal to me, which I know you understand.

  10. You go girl. That’s all I can say. I just love how you pour your passion into the world and make it a better place. I am totally behind you.

  11. I can so relate to this. You would look good up there, and be heard. But I totally get it…. it’s a big climb and you have so much to fight for already…. like all of those impressionable kids you teach.

  12. I think you should continue to fuel that passion that you have for teaching. Sure, you are only one person but you make a difference in SO many people’s lives, being a teacher Katie. I admire you for standing behind what you believe. I just wish I could believe in it more. Unfortunately this is not the only thing in our country that seems oh so disappointing to me these days. xoxo

    • I don’t want people to think I am naive. I know there are BIG PROBLEMS with government-mandated things. And the implantation has not been good across states–especially those who had very low standards that they were very used to meeting easily all the time. Now they are asked to meet things that seem unreachable, so they do things like send home worksheets because they feel like that will somehow teach the kids and fill the gaps. That stuff won’t.

      As always in this country, stuff will suck.

      My belief is that you have to take what you are given and make it not suck. My district is an example of making the common core not suck.

  13. As a common Core facilitator for my site and the district, Common core absolutely IS my passion. I take personal issue with people disliking them, mainly because I feel that most of the issue lies in misunderstanding curriculum and standards. It’s very frustrating, and I won’t be quiet about it, which is making it even worse.

    I am with you :)

    • Ooo! I would LOVE to pick your brain about ideas for implementation and whatnot then! I am always looking for more ideas!

      • Any time! I am so loving it. We have started a few school wide policies (TPS, close reading strategies) and it’s been amazing.

        • We do that too! We started close and critical reading (CCR) about five years ago and added active reading strategies about two years ago now. Since I teach the upperclassman, I am now working on getting them to be able to evaluate and synthesis more. It’s exciting…and painful. But mostly exciting! :)

  14. I learned so much from your blog about core principles in education. I’m a nurse practitioner and knew nothing about them until your blog. Thanks for having the courage to tackle a volatile subject out-loud and on the internet!

    Always love your blog.

    • Thank you so much, Glenda! I sometimes think people just need to know where to go to find out more. That is what I do here…clear it up and point to where people can find out more. :)

  15. I think it’s very smart of you to realize that although you totally would rock the top of that mountain, you don’t necessarily need to, nor would it necessarily do any good. You have such a passion for your job and I think it’s so rare that we see someone who has truly found their calling.

    • It’s not my time for the top of the mountain. Maybe someday. Maybe never. But it’s not right now. Right now I need to lead by example…even when it feels like no one is watching. And thank you for the compliment. I do feel like teaching is my calling. :)

  16. Stay true to who you are and what you believe and keep sharing it! And never think you are small again. xoxo

  17. Your students are so lucky to have you, Katie.
    SO, SO lucky.

    I’ve heard a lot of grumbling, too, but since my twins just finished the 1st quarter of 2nd grade, it’s not affecting them/us as much as it does others.

    And? You are climbing mountains. Even when you think you aren’t. We’re looking up to you from waaaaay down here with admiration, respect, and love.
    ;-)

    xoxo
    (now every time we put on The Heist I’mma think of you)

    • Aww. Erin. There you go making me all teary-eyed. I guess sometimes we start up those mountains without even realizing it because we are just putting one foot in front of the other without looking up and out. We don’t notice that the elevation change.

      And the Heist is my commute/thinking music right now. Confession? Some of his lyrics make me cry every time I hear them. Every. damn. time.

  18. Keep on rocking in your school shoes.

  19. Hey Kate! I hear ya! I also don’t understand the outrage against Common Core. I think most people just don’t like change. I think a lot of people just don’t understand what it is about. They’re guidelines, not curriculum. Most teachers were probably already teaching under tougher restrictions by using a purchased curriculum. No big deal, just keep teaching.

  20. Writing your thoughts on topics like that can be a really good thing, whether you change the world with one post or not. But remember that what you do every day is a much bigger life-changer than changing other peoples’ minds. ;)

  21. Girl keep on keeping on. You’re in the trenches and you’re fighting the good fight. You’re doing good things Katie.

  22. Oh Katie! This is why I love you. I adore your perspective, your heart, your goals and how you teach people things without even trying.

    You concur those hills and if you wanna tackle the mountain… I’ll be right there with you

  23. Hi Katie,

    I read your blog regularly but never comment. Just wanted to (a) say hi and let you know I’m here; and (b) tell you that I really enjoyed your Common Core piece. My daughter is not yet in school, but I still try to follow what’s going on in public schools. You write in a clear, concise way that makes me excited to be sending my daughter to public school. Spreading excitement about public schools – that’s a mountain you have already climbed!

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