New York teacher William Johnson writes “classroom dispatches” for the Gotham Schools website.
Many teachers are caught in the spiral of silence, afraid to speak about the problems of Common Core for fear of losing their jobs.
I understand why they don’t want to make waves. But I deeply respect the teachers like Susan Wilcox, David Cox, Kris Nielsen, Stephen Round and William Johnson, who do dare to speak their minds. Today I’m highlighting New York teacher William Johnson who writes at the Gotham Schools website.
His observations about the absurd vocabulary requirements of Common Core and its disrespect of the English teacher and the English classroom are insightful.
“Thanks to the Common Core, this year a series of “Shifts in ELA/Literacy” will be imposed upon English teachers across the country. These shifts require, among other things, that English teachers spend less time on “esoteric literary terms … such as ‘onomatopoeia’ or ‘homonym’” and more time on “pivotal and commonly found words…such as ‘discourse,’ ‘generation,’ ‘theory,’ and ‘principled.’”
It’s worth noting that not one of the terms identified as “pivotal” under these common core shifts is specific to the discipline of English. This is particularly interesting given the Common Core’s insistence on “domain-specific” vocabulary….
Why do the folks behind the Common Core think domain-specific vocabulary isn’t important when it comes to English? Again, the language used to describe the new Common Core approach highlights the ways that these standards will change the goal of English study from understanding and mastery of literature and literary writing to “constantly build[ing] students’ ability to access more complex texts across the content areas.” In other words, the goal of English class will become helping students read texts for their other subject areas — the ones that really matter, like math.
…Unfortunately, the folks behind the Common Core have made it abundantly clear that they see little value in having students understand literature.
Over and over again, Common Core advocates have promoted teaching “informational texts” over literature. According to the Common Core, more than 50 percent of high school English curricula are supposed to consist of informational texts.
By 12th grade, the Common Core recommends that 70 percent of the texts students read in English be informational, not literary.”
In another article, Johnson writes:
“The truth is, teachers don’t need elected officials to motivate us. If our students are not learning, they let us know. … Good administrators use the evaluation processes to support teachers and help them avoid those painful classroom moments — not to weed out the teachers who don’t produce good test scores or adhere to their pedagogical beliefs.
Worst of all, the more intense the pressure gets, the worse we teach. When I had administrators breathing down my neck, the students became a secondary concern. … I was scared of losing my job, and my students suffered for it.”
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Thank you, William Johnson.