Sunday, September 10, 2017

Kim Frencken: Let's revisit the standards ... or maybe not

We have all been through CCSS and state standards and learning goals and GLEs. We've been through numerous training sessions and, even more, new implementation plans. We've sat and listening to 'experts' telling us how to implement the set of learning standards we are currently using so that our students will have the best learning experience possible. Let's face it. We've been there. Done that.

One of the ones I find most amusing (in a sarcastic sort of way) is the implementation procedure using the word rigor. My colleagues and I used to have a good laugh at that one. Oh, the concept was okay. It called for lessons to be thorough and relevant to student's needs today. It checked for cohesiveness and scaffolding. Not bad. In fact, our lesson should be cohesive and build on each other and be thorough. There's nothing wrong with making lessons relevant so that students can relate to them. Make a connection. So, what drove us to fits of laughter (much to our administrators confusion and dismay)? Rigor. Where do these people get these words? Apparently, not from a dictionary. If they had bothered to look it up, they wouldn't have chosen the word rigor. But, they didn't and now the education world adopted this word in relationship to our lessons without batting an eye.

Let me ask a few clarifying questions- just to make sure I understand the word rigor correctly.
Why are 12 year old students being asked to follow rules for collegiate discussions? Why are 10 year olds required to produce a life-like portrait? Why is number sense no longer deemed necessary after 1st grade? All in the name of rigor. We've geared education, not towards the child, not at the recommendation of experienced educators, but at the words of so-called experts who are telling us that rigor is part of the best-practices package.

Okay, learning should be thorough. Learning should be relevant, Learning should even be challenging. But rigorous. Not unless you want it to be dead, dead, dead. Look it up. Rigor is a state of stiffness, chills and fever, the onset of death. And, yes, I do realize that an alternative definition for rigor can also mean thoroughness and diligence. But have you looked at the list of synonyms associated with this definition? Harsh, unyielding, or rigid. Is this really what we are trying to convey? Sure, I get it. Rigor used with relevance has a catchy ring to it. Alliteration. But, do we really want our students to compare learning with something cold, stiff, and harsh?

Just ask any experienced, seasoned, veteran educator. They know what best-practices are. They know what is best for their kids. They know how to scaffold and challenge their students. And, it will save you thousands of dollars in expert fees. And, maybe someday, in a perfect world, someone will wake up and say, "Hey, let's ask teachers what is best for their students. Let them write their learning goals and objectives." But until then... let's just keep a sense of humor and keep doing what we know is truly best.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, visit her website Chocolate for the Teacher.)

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