Bradley County Schools teachers, principals and staff took time out Friday to regroup with teacher in-service.
The usual kick-off training was delayed until September to allow each school to hold individual trainings.
“This year we are doing this a little different … it’s a little bit of an odd year as we move to the implementation of the Common Core. We have tried to find extra support training for our teachers,” Bradley County Schools director Johnny McDaniel said. “We want you to be inspired. We want you to be reflective.”
Common Core training was ongoing for some teachers throughout the summer. These teachers came back and trained teachers at their schools.
“I understand the pressure that you are under,” McDaniel said. “We live in a time where we have seen more change than ever before in education, and it is coming fast.”
To provide additional tools for implementing Common Core, Jill Jackson of Jackson Consulting presented “Getting the Standards into the Classroom STAT!”
“My major goal in life is to make sure we take very fussy, very over the top difficult kinds of things in education and make them simple, and by making them simple, we make them doable,” Jackson said.
To make Common Core implementation “doable” she presented five steps.
These included: translate what the standards to understand what is required to be taught, realize that the standards instill habits and cannot just be taught once, use close reading to teach all the standards, “link text dependent questions and responses to the close reading habit,” and then develop a lesson that incorporates all of this.
“What trumps socio-economics, demographics, the impact of reform efforts, assessment data and all of this kind of stuff … is high quality instruction,” Jackson said. “And high quality instruction isn’t a philosophy. It isn’t an idea. It’s not a thought. It’s an actual thing.”
In order for Common Core to be successful, everyone in education needs to be teaching the standards, not just saying they are and doing what they have always done.
“The standards are about instruction and learning habits,” Jackson said.
She said teachers would no longer be able to focus on one standard for a couple of weeks and then move on.
Although close reading is a requirement of Common Core, it is also a tool that helps reach many of the objectives in areas other than simply reading and language arts.
Jackson said close reading helps students better understand what they read to learn information better.
Close reading requires multiple readings of a text. The first time a student reads something they are just trying to understand the main idea. The second time students look at why the author chose certain words and what were the author’s most important points. The third read incorporates analysis of the text and how it relates to other texts or real life, Jackson said.
The new standards are made up of about 50 to 60 percent of what was already being taught, according to Jackson. The rest is new information or adjustments to information.
Jackson said the new standards are not just about adding requirements and content. She said it is also about deciding what no longer fits.
Simply lecturing for students and asking a few questions does not meet Common Core requirements.
Jackson said some teachers would need to implement new teaching formats to meet the required speaking and listening standards.
McDaniel and Jackson stressed that teaching was not just about getting a student to do well on an end of course test.
Mixed in amongst information about Common Core, the Project Coach teacher evaluation model and the school system’s leadership program were reminders to teachers that they do make a difference.
Black Fox students Haley Esquinance and Chandler Miles reminded teachers that students are “changed for good” by teachers as they sang “For Good.”
Encouragement also came from Charleston Elementary student Michael Robinson, who opened the training with an inspiring speech for teachers to “feed me knowledge” and courage.
McDaniel said a teacher he had as a first-grade student who “saw something in me …She — I think — recognized that there was a helper in there that needed to help people.”
McDaniel said this teacher inspired him. He encouraged teachers to do the same for their students.