Local teachers trained on new standards
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 15, 2013 | 2388 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Learning 'Common Core'
CLEVELAND MIDDLE SCHOOL recently hosted a three-day Common Core training session for Southeast Tennessee’s public school educators. Teachers arrived at 8:30 a.m., left at midday for a one-hour break and were back in their classrooms until 4:30 p.m. Banner photos, DELANEY WALKER
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Southeast Tennessee teachers recently flocked to Cleveland Middle School for training in the larger-than-life Common Core English, language arts and reading standards.

Training was not limited to English and language arts teachers. Educators of social studies, sciences and math were present for the three-day session. Richelle Shelton, Common Core trainer, said career and technological instructors were present as well.

Teachers were separated by subject and grade level. Trainers instructed educators on their respective standards alongside methods to relate the concepts to their students.

Denise George, Valley View Elementary instructional coach and second-grade Common Core trainer, said teachers were receptive to the training.

She described the educators in attendance as engaged and excited about the new concepts.

Participants and George’s fellow facilitator discussed various teaching techniques. Teachers plugged in to the training through discussions on vocabulary and decoding skills.

“In second grade, we are really working on just the act of being able to read. When they get to the upper grades, it is more about comprehension,” George explained. “So if we can get that decoding done in the primary grades, so they can read fluently and well, then when they move on, they can concentrate more on what they are understanding.”

Prior to Common Core, teachers were encouraged to prepare their students for the next grade level. Now educators from Kindergarten to 12th grade are told to prepare students to be college- and career-ready.

Rebecca Marino, fifth-grade teacher at Arnold Elementary and Common Core trainer, explained the shift is dramatic for teachers.

“I think one of our biggest moments of insight was that as a fifth-grade teacher I am not preparing my students for sixth grade,” Marino said. “I am preparing them to be college- and career-ready.”

Educators are no longer encouraged to just consider the next year or the next test.

Added Marino, “For me, that was such a change in thought, because I was constantly thinking, ‘Ok, well they don’t need to know this until sixth grade.’”

Common Core changes the game plan for teachers of every grade level and subject. Educators of subjects outside of ELA were included due to CC’s format. Reading is involved in every subject to learn the material. Writing is then required of every student to display their understanding of the material.

Two posters hung up in one of the science training rooms to encourage teachers.

To change the way students learn science:

- Know more about Common Core and how to use it in my classroom.

- Common Core addresses the needs for students to be able to research and support their findings in the workplace and beyond.

- These Common Core Standards can be used across all science studies — it is just how you apply them to the standard.

And a reminder for teachers: Common Core is a marathon, not a sprint.

Common Core trainers Emily Foggin, Yates Primary instructional facilitator, and Richelle Shelton, CMS student services specialist, highlighted a welcomed change in education.

“It is eye-opening to hear what they are doing all across the state. It pushes you back a little from your corner of the world,” Foggin said. “I feel like for the first time, Common Core and this training, allows us to look at someone from a different part of your same state and have a strong connection.”

She said a teacher in Memphis is receiving the same training as someone in Cleveland.

Added Shelton, “I think the opportunity for collaboration is huge. I think in schools, you have always had that teacher next door who you would say, ‘Hey, what are you doing,’ to get some ideas.”

Now teachers can discuss the same standards from system to system and state to state.

Both trainers acknowledged the current debate surrounding Common Core. Shelton said it boils down to teachers being student-focused.

“The people who are here are here because they want to do better for their students,” Shelton said. “... I think it is a political issue and some teachers may not be happy with it, but for most of the teachers, they want to do what is right for the kids.”

Foggin acknowledged doing what is right for the students depends on a person’s relationship to them. Teachers might decide learning Common Core is the best way to help their students. Parents might decide to let their voices be heard.

“... Positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. That is a part of our rights as Americans. We have the right to disagree. We are allowed to do that and I think what helps, is when you do become student-focused so you can let some things fall away,” Foggin said. “I think it is the same for parents. They have to make certain we are doing what is important for their kids, like, ‘Are you still going to teach them?’”

More information can be found at corestandards.org.