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Quit complaining about Common Core [Commentary]

I am tired.

I am tired of the union, the newspaper, and other teachers telling me how I should feel about the Common Core and the new curriculum roll out.

I am tired of headlines saying that teachers are resigning in droves and that the Common Core is ruining public education.

I am tired of teachers writing editorials that compare the aftermath of teaching this year to having PTSD.

These generalizations are ridiculous. Why?

Well, partially because when teachers start whining and complaining about their jobs, it simply reinforces public opinion that teachers are lazy and only teach for the time off.

Summer off? You are so lucky! And you get holidays, too? What an easy job!

But there is also the idea that education is always changing. Teaching is about adapting. Teachers must learn and re-learn. We give some and take some. We make a thousand decisions in a class period, a million in a week and a billion in a quarter. It's evaluating practices, reflecting on strategies and conceding when things don't quite work. Teaching is hard. It takes grit. It takes drive. It takes focus. It takes energy.

And complaining and whining sucks all of that away. It undercuts the profession and says to the world, "We are teachers and we can't or won't or don't want change!"

Yes, I will admit, for many the curriculum roll-out was difficult and clunky and inefficient. It happened too quickly with not enough training.

However, I look to those teachers with their loud, dissenting voices and ask: What did you do last year? Surely, you save lessons, plan books and worksheets that you created to build an arsenal of work from which to pull — I know I do. When I notice a gap in the curriculum, I fall back on things that have worked in the past. I have files, both hard copies and computer copies, that are there for me to access. The common core standards are not so different from the Maryland State Curriculum, so, with some tweaking, I make things work.

Sometimes it isn't easy, but I never thought this job would be.

For me, teaching isn't about a paycheck. Or summers off. Or nice holiday breaks. Yes, certainly, I am lucky to have time off with my family (and yet, I pack my summer breaks with professional development, department planning, lesson writing, reading and plenty of other work-related tasks).

For me, teaching is about challenging myself to always be a learner. To read new things, engage in meaningful conversations, and explore new areas of study.

Teaching is about being a mentor. To inspire even the most reluctant learner. To celebrate graduations. To make parents see that their teenager is always worth it. Teaching is about collaboration. To work with my co-workers on building a better department. To laugh together, sometimes cry together, and occasionally, yes, feel angry together. To work together on a shared goal.

Yes, there is high-stakes testing. Now we have SLOs (student learning objectives). There is a new catch phrase every week and a new acronym to learn. But those things are small compared to the enormous task that teachers have: to empower our students, to help them discover their voice and to support and guide them.

This is where our power lies.

So, please, stop your complaining. There will always be high-stakes testing, at least for the foreseeable future. Our job is hard and might get harder. So dig in. Remember what teaching really is. Stop whining, stop complaining — that is wasted energy. That is energy that could be channeled into so many things that are actually worth your time. This energy could be directed toward that planning, learning, and collaborating.

And, if, at the end of the day you still think teaching is just a paycheck, a summer off, a break around every holiday. That it's just a job. Then, please, get out.

We don't want you here.

Emily Blumenauer is a high school English teacher in Baltimore County. Her email is eblumenauer03@gmail.com.

To respond to this commentary, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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