Greg Ahlquist is New York State’s Teacher of the year, 2013. Let’s have a big round of applause! This man must really be special. His teaching methods must be unique and innovative. He must be incredibly creative in the classroom. He must be a one-of-a-kind hero. Surely, inspiring his students must come naturally. Certainly, his methods are his own, and other teachers can only aspire to be as effective as he must be.
In Ahlquist’s essay, How Greg Got HIs Groove Back, we get a formulaic and artificial sense of modesty as he describes how the Common Core State Standards revolutionized his teaching practices. The Common Core encourages an emphasis on a close reading of the texts to gain a deeper understanding–or an ‘unpacking’ of the texts as Common Core junkies too often state.
If we do a close reading of Greg Ahlquist’s essay we can unpack his text and dig deeply to discover the true meaning and a deep understanding of what this is really all about– that this man is a true ass-kisser. ‘College and career readiness’ is a phrase thrown around in any Common Core propaganda you’ll read and Ahlquist’s essay is no different in this false reassurance. He goes on to declare, “Standing at the intersection of these two storylines is David Coleman, one of the architects of the Common Core and newly appointed president of the College Board. In a video on the EngageNY website (http://goo.gl/Zf5lm), you can see him suggest ways to teach the Gettysburg Address. After viewing this video and seeing one of my administrators brilliantly model Coleman’s suggestions in a close reading of that text, I realized that Coleman understands teaching and learning profoundly. His lesson on the Gettysburg Address provided me with the kind of hope and reassurance that many teachers need as we seek better ways to prepare our students to think critically and become engaged citizens.”
As I give Ahlquist’s proclamation a close read, I naturally long for a text-based question which would obviously come in the form of a multiple-choice high-stakes test. I’m sure the answer would be (C) as in, Oh oh, pick me pick me, I love Common Core!
You see, Ahlquist is a CC man and although he has loads of praise for the Common Core State Standards, the type of CC to which I am referring is actually Carbon Copy. Whereas Ahlquist sees the Common Core as “a way out of that professional crisis of conscience,” most teachers out there are being confronted with one as their freedom to teach creatively and independently is being stripped away. More and more teachers in the profession are expected to mirror one another in what and how they teach. Unique approaches are replaced with a ‘yes-men’ mentality and this goes against most teachers’ moral consciences. Too much standardization will most definitely create more and more carbon copies–in our teachers and our students.
When one declares that it’s a good thing to read texts with more depth and gain a true understanding, I do not disagree. And everybody wants high standards (as long as they are realistic and developmentally appropriate). Most teachers are adept enough at realizing this and don’t need standardization to let them in on this little secret. But, what bothers me most about those gushing mindless praise for the Common Core is that for these particular teachers, it’s like meaningful teaching never occurred to them before the Common Core told them how to do it! Ahlquist states, “my classes revolved around facts and minutia, rather than around my craft as a historian. There was a disconnect between my sincere desire to prepare my high school students for college and the actual work they did in my class.”
Good teachers, which there are many, are belittled and patronized by such standardization that is largely created and peddled by non-educators. And teachers like Greg Ahlquist only corroborate the myth that teachers were randomly successful at their jobs and needed someone to step in and solve the problem.
So if you too want to “discover content and meaning that a casual reader can easily miss,” dig deep…. wait never mind, fall in line and do as you’re told. Then you too might have a chance at being named next year’s Teacher of the Year.