Saturday, June 11, 2016

Common Core is Destroying our Children
By:  Robyn Brydalski

Let me begin with: I am not a psychologist, brain researcher or doctor. I am not a behaviorist, counselor or psychiatrist but I am willing to go out on a limb with my seventeen years of teaching experience to make a carte blanche statement:
Common Core Curriculum is destroying our children.
Rigor, fidelity, efficacy, pacing and stamina are the devil’s dealings. We have lost sight of our children and how they learn best. It is June in my classroom. There are less than two weeks to go and my students are falling apart. My building is falling apart. The children are out of control. With the black cloud of state testing moving east (until the results are sent to us sometime in September), many teachers are trying to have fun with their students but Reader’s Theater, visiting the playground, free play, celebrating writing, participating in self determined book clubs and exploring Science and Social Studies have left our students in a tizzy. The children should be laughing, engaged and having just plain fun, the exact opposite is happening. They are using words to lash out at one another, physical aggression to release anger, refusing to comply with adult directives and disengaging from the teacher, classroom and school.
We have created these negative behaviors. At the start of the school year, we ignored the child. We ran straight out of the starting gates so that we would not fall behind on the pacing of state created curriculas. Reflecting back, many of my colleagues felt behind before the students entered our classrooms creating a feeling of mass hysteria and panic. When you are told it is a disservice to the students if you do not get through the required curriculum, you cannot help but feel pressured. Teachers displayed learning targets and made sure the students could recite them verbatim for fear we would look bad if a surprise visit by administration was had. We ignored the need to get to know our students and make personal connections with them. We showed them from day one, it was not about them, it was about us surviving the curriculum. When students melted down and behavioral needs within our classrooms appeared, we pushed them along. We didn’t stop to listen to the needs of our students - they were asking us to slow down. They were telling us it was too much, too fast, too soon. We introduced basic topics and jumped leaps and bounds to cognitively inappropriate material expecting kids to roll with it yet we knew they were confused and frustrated. We ignored their cries for help. We left no time to remediate, re-teach or review. And now the students have the upper hand. As we relinquish the restraints of pacing, grit and rigor and begin to enjoy our craft in these final two weeks, we have allowed our students to emotionally pass us by. How sad it is being the ninth month of school that we are finally allowing ourselves to make connections with our children and they are doing to us what we did to them.
It is a shame this is what has become of public education. I confess I have snuffed the flame from my students this year as I attempted to achieve the state and district curriculum expectations for meeting the demands of the common core.
Working with children, you quickly learn their ebbs and flows. Full moons affect moods, energy levels and behaviors. Forcing children to sit, engage and focus for 45 minutes (many times longer) destroys the natural being of our young learners.
Educators know children learn best by doing. They engage because of their innate curiosity and sense of wonder. They learn social cues, how to conversate and how to be a friend through play, guided interactions via class meetings and exploration. Fine motor skills are honed through cutting, glue and craft activities. Songs, poetry, movement and music enhance learning by activating the whole brain.
These learning qualities have been ignored with the introduction of the Common Core and packaged/scripted programs. It's not that teachers aren’t teaching or students aren’t learning. The reality is we are not meeting the needs of our learners. More children are being diagnosed with ADHD, require Occupational Therapy and have negative behaviors that change classroom dynamics.
It is time to bring back the simplicity of education so that we are focusing on the whole child.


  1. Powerful and important article, Robyn! Thank you for being brave and writing what you see and think. I wish we heard more of these perspectives.


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