Welcome to the kickoff post for #D100bloggerPD's newest blog book study- a look into Michael Fisher's Hacking the Common Core. This is one of many books in the Hack Learning Series- all of which are short, beautiful (both written and appearance!) books that help teachers employ and ignite change in their classrooms immediately!
Photo Credit to Colleen @litlovegal1
This isn't the first Hack Learning Series book that #D100bloggerPD has tackled; we read and studied Hacking Education back in March/April of this year and you can access all those posts here if you'd like to check them out.
If at this point you aren't totally sure what #D100bloggerPD is- please be sure to check along the right side (scroll down and look right!) of this blog and click the #D100bloggerPD label- which will take you to all of my previous posts and all the previous studies and you'll find everything you need to catch you up to speed.
Basically, #D100bloggerPD is a fresh take on blogging and professional development that was started (almost!) a year ago by my #teachertwin Colleen- a colleague in Berwyn South School District 100- hence the D100. She had completed a blog study a while ago with a different group of people- and not only did I participate- but I loved the idea- so we got together and came up with the idea of brining this blogger professional development to our school district. That was in November of last year and since then, we have studied four books (this study being the fifth) and involved many staff members or administrators from across our school district.
Aside from learning and having fun ourselves, we've caught the eye of the authors of the books we've been studying- and some have even been gracious enough to help us along the way with materials, with ideas, or by participating in a Twitter Chat (#d100chat) in our district. We are incredibly appreciative of all the help we have gotten along the way- not only from these authors- but also from our amazing colleagues/bloggers who, without them, these studies wouldn't be possible.
Speaking of those fabulous bloggers- here is the schedule for this blog study- and the date and location of which to find each post. As they are posted, I will link them here for ease of accessibility.
As you can see, I've been charged with writing my reflection on the Introduction as well as Hack 1 of Hacking the Common Core. I love starting these blog book studies because I get so excited at the thought of kicking off these great events of learning. So without further ado, let's jump right in.
The introduction to this book addresses the question implied in the title of the book. Why do the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) need to be hacked anyway? Well, if you're an educator and you've been breathing for the last 6-7 years, you've heard of the CCSS. You've also probably cursed them, had them come up in dinner conversation with non-educator friends, and also had to explain them to a frustrated parent- all while attempting to hide your inner disdain for these lovely standards. I'm about as positive person as there is in the world- and even I will admit- these standards drove me kind of crazy. Notice how that is past tense. Yes, they were new. Yes, they're a little wonky. BUT- I'm a teacher- and I have students to educate here- so I got over it and moved on.
The rest of the world of public opinion did not. Not a day goes by where someone doesn't share/reshare those viral posts on Facebook about the "new math" or "ridiculous things we expect of students these days" and- make no mistake about it- the world of public opinion HATES the CCSS.
So what can we do?
Well, for one, we can realize that the CCSS did not swoop in and replace the need for quality, caring teachers. For another- we can pick up this handy book that we are discussing right now, and jump into 10 easy 'hacks' to make the CCSS make sense and work for us and not against us. I LOVE how Michael Fisher points out in the introduction, that regardless of all the change that the CCSS have brought upon us, our "students still need their teachers." (Hacking the Common Core, Page 18) This sometimes (strangely) overlooked fact is a fantastic reminder that while we, as teachers, are getting nervous, frustrated, etc. over these new standards, there are still students walking into our classroom everyday wanting to learn. There is still a task at hand- even if it may be a bit more confusing now. He reminds us that we can't just stop teaching these students. They deserve our best effort and we definitely owe that much to them. To me, being frustrated over the CCSS doesn't seem like a fantastic excuse to not be the best teacher you can possibly be.
Which brings me to my other favorite quote of Fisher's from the introduction, the unforgettable notion that "we teach students, not standards." (Hacking the Common Core, Page 19).
While I feel like this is a no-brainer- the fact that it needs to be said illustrates the point that teachers can no longer worry about just teaching their students. There's battery of tests, an endless list of questions, and on top of those- a brand new group of standards by which to teach these students. If you've read my blog before, you know how highly I praise educators because of the simple fact that teaching is hard. Teaching is a complex art that cannot be faked, cannot be done well if not totally prepared, and ultimately, cannot be brushed aside in the media as a job any less worthy of our respect than any other profession. Throughout this introduction, Fisher brilliantly balances society's frustrations of the Common Core while also giving hope that this book will ease those burdens and lessen those fears- a task which seems impossible sometimes- but one that is achieved by the masterful hacks in this book.
Let's dig right in and look at Hack 1: Shift Happens. I mentioned earlier that I am a positive person- or at the very least- I'm always trying to 'look on the bright side', so the fact that this hack (chapter) starts with an amazing quote from actor Chris Pine, one I had never read before, made me so happy.
This quote, shown in the picture and from page 21, sums up exactly how I feel about being in a difficult situation. He's right- we can't control everything. We can control our own attitude. This piece of advice is often easy to hear and hard to follow- but it's one that can do certain good when forming our attack plan on the CCSS. We aren't going to wake up one day to a news story that the CCSS have been abolished and something new and perfect is magically in it's place. That's just not going to happen. So instead of complaining- let's find a way to make them work for us. Fisher explains in the opening to this chapter that teachers often become so frustrated with these standards that they choose to do nothing in the place of something. Let's revisit what we learned in the introduction. Our students still need us. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing. So here's where Hack 1 comes into play. Fisher encourages teachers to "look to the instructional shifts" (Hacking the Common Core, Page 22) and break down the standards, and in turn, our confusion. Fisher explains that, "If we remove the sometimes overwhelming breadth of the standards from the curriculum conversations and instead focus only on the shifts, capacities, or practices, we can start moving toward intentional actions" (Hacking the Common Core, Page 22). These shifts are found by examining the standards and breaking them into these 'shifts' for a much more clear approach.
In the Hack 1: Shift Happens chapter, Fisher also provides steps that you can take tomorrow as well as steps for full implementation of this hack. I love that this set-up, common to all Hack Learning books, gives teachers a quick fix for tomorrow and a solid plan for the future. No one is going to wave a magic wand and make these 'Hacks' happen tomorrow- but at least the book provides a place to start. I also happen to think that the steps Fisher outlines as a "start tomorrow" plan, happen to be a darn good outline for any plan we devise in our life. In short, his four steps for starting tomorrow are:
1 Access and read.
2 Set a purpose for understanding.
3 Think of intentional actions.
4 Choose one new thing from the capacities or practices and just do it.
I challenge you to think of an obstacle in your life, right now, that wouldn't benefit from these four steps. I mean, seriously. First, learn about it. Then, set a purpose and think of something intentional you can do. And ultimately, pick something and DO IT. This is the beauty of this book- and specifically this chapter- the fact that after reading it, you feel empowered and compelled to start change in your classroom. Not to mention, you feel capable of doing so. That's pretty astounding. Fisher goes on to be so kind as to provide a menu for full implementation of this hack, as well as address some potential pushback that you might receive along the way.
Overall, this opening Hack to the book is not only clearly written and concise- but it provides a basis for the rest of the book that can only lead you to more success in your classroom and in navigating these Common Core Standards. If you want to learn about Hacks 2-10- be sure to stick around for the rest of our #D100bloggerPD study by using the schedule at the top of this post.
Also, if you have questions for Michael Fisher, he'll be joining us for a special edition of #D100chat on October 18, right before the completion of this blog book study.
I'd love for you to leave any questions or comments below- and don't forget to check out Teaching and Learning Redefined on Wednesday, 10/5, for Hack 2 in our ongoing study.
Also, be sure to celebrate the 1st birthday of #D100bloggerPD on November 9, 2016! Check Twitter and follow with our hashtag as we celebrate one whole year of this fantastic, teacher-led, 'my time' professional development!
If, as a birthday present (I won't tell #D100bloggerPD that it's for you), you want to get your own copy of Hacking the Common Core and follow along with our study, you can get your own copy here: