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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Can Creativity and the Common Core Exist Simultaneously?


              If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge supporters of the arts.  In college, I filled my days with dance classes and short story writing classes.  I attended poetry readings at book stores regularly and made friends with people who wrote their in class essays using a feather and a jar of ink.  I was an English major and if anyone ever asked me what I was going to do with my life, I would smile wryly and tell them that I was going to "flip burgers and write about it."  
        My undergraduate graduation from Northern Illinois University arrived faster than expected, and flipping burgers suddenly didn't seem as endearing as it had once seemed in that late night coffee house.  I'd spent four years living and breathing modern dance, tap, and poetry.  I wanted to share my love of the arts with others.  So I decided to continue my education and become a high school English teacher where I was convinced I would be able to spend a lifetime sipping lattes and  discussing the hidden meanings in the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare with students and colleages.  I devoted two and a half years to post graduate work, eventually earning a whopping one-hundred-and-eighty undergraduate credits (clearly, I had never heard of graduate study) with the idea that I would continue to celebrate my love of poetry and the arts with future generations of students and get paid while doing it. 
        Fast forward fourteen years.  Two kids  and a masters degree in literacy education later, I am currently a reading interventionist and literacy coach in a middle school that is implementing the new Common Core Standards for the first time.  Because the media has recently criticized these new standards, saying that they leave little room for creativity and appreciation of the arts, I feel a strong need to disagree.  While it may be true that the Common Core requires teachers to emphasize argument writing, academic vocabulary, informational text reading, and critical thinking skills,  I stand strong by my belief that  these skills are essential if we wish to create students who are well-equipped to participate in the work force of the 21st Century.  I ran across a short video by R.N. Gutierrez that reminds us of just that.