In a world where controversial ‘Hot Topics’ are abuzz, Brian Gawlak finds the teachable moments in trending issues.
I read a story about a man from Ohio that made me grin from ear to ear, before I quickly erupted into a full-on belly laugh. The only aspect of this story that didn’t make me smile is I didn’t think of this man’s idea first.
Doug Hermann, a parent living in Ohio, got fed up with Common Core Math, and wrote a check to his kids’ school using Common Core Math! A picture of the check and the story went viral over the past few days, and his actions have a lot of people laughing and expressing their disdain on social media over the new standards and methods of education. Read about it here, and here!
I did some internet-digging and found the original Facebook post that was shared over 13,000 times. Mr. Hermann did not actually send the check in to the school. He was merely making a point on social media: the school would probably have to explain to the bank teller how to interpret the check. While he may not have followed through with his “joke,” he incited a conversation which resonated with a lot of people, including me.
I have to admit that I sometimes have to use google to help my daughters with their homework. My wife and I were both very good students, but we both knew one day, as the girls moved up in school, a topic would be too far removed from our own educations and we would be stumped. We just did not expect that to happen in third grade! I confess to once making my oldest completely redo her math homework because she got every answer wrong. I tried to explain to her what she did wrong and how to fix it. The look on her face was priceless – it was as though she never heard anything I was saying before. Wasn’t she paying attention in class?
Imagine my horror the next day when the teacher returned her paper with every answer marked wrong, and try to picture my face the moment I realized she had originally answered everything correctly! I grudgingly advised her teacher via written note on the “corrected homework.” I was mortified. The next day, the teacher added to my note on the assignment and assured me “parents do this all the time.” I hope she wasn’t just placating my damaged ego, but based on the buzz I have been hearing these past few days, I am not alone!
I understand the purpose of Common Core Math is to help students better understand concepts and not just learn by memorization as my generation was taught. I have a teacher-friend who came to Common Core’s defense in response to Mr. Hermann’s post, and she advised me Common Core truly helps students understand regrouping and number sense. I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone else come to the defense of Common Core Math, but I certainly respect my friend’s perspective as a teacher. I have great respect for all teachers who deal with being blamed by parents for failing students, or who have parents blame the curriculum for their children’s lack of curriculum mastery. I am not that parent, and I hold my kids accountable for their performances. I may not like or agree with how things are being done in terms of curriculum, but I certainly expect my children to do the necessary work to excel and succeed.
I believe our children are being treated as guinea pigs as the first generation exposed to this curriculum and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned. I understand why Mr. Hermann’s story resonated with so many people. Many of my friends/fellow parents share the fear that Common Core Math is going to teach our children to add extra steps to problem solving and hinder quick-thinking, wit, and the ability to think on one’s toes. If through simple memorization we can solve a problem in fewer steps, why would we change how we teach those steps and that skill of memorization?
Do we need a national standard for our children? Absolutely! Why, though, must we re-invent the wheel and leave a nation of frustrated parents (46 states strong in the Common Core Curriculum), wrongly corrected students and overwhelmed teachers? I am not a mathematician, and math was never my strong suit, but couldn’t we have come up with a better plan within our existing structure that was mathematically sound?
I will not name names, but one of our daughter’s teachers took a moment during a parent/teacher conference to advise my wife and me she is totally against Common Core. She was a teacher very near retirement and clearly at her wit’s end. She admitted to us that most parents in the class had the same concerns and struggles we did, and my wife and I found something very comforting in that fact. Many families were experiencing our struggle and our nightly need for google!
The teacher went on to confess that she did not really grasp the concepts of Common Core, and often found herself turning to her colleagues for answers on things she does not understand. My wife and I did a double take, as we empathize with teachers and all they have to do, but when the teacher is confused while teaching young minds? There is something about this process that lacks common sense.
I don’t know what is to come from Common Core Math, or how our guinea-pig-children will learn and grow going forward, but I will remain involved, questioning, and completely shaken to my ‘common core’ that even the teacher is confused!