As a dedicated teacher and an advocate for ELs, it has been disheartening to again, in this recent iteration of standards movement, feel like the outsider and the last one invited to the conversation about Common Core. However, that has changed, in some measure, due to the professional outreach and advocacy of TESOL International. I was privileged to attend a convening of strong professionals on the U.S. Valentine’s Day, 2013, where TESOL International gathered more than 30 amazing advocate voices from the field. The program was led by John Segota, Diane Staehr Fenner, and Sarah Sahr and supported by numerous others. It was a different kind of day. Access a summary of the gathering: “Implementing the Common Core State Standards for English Learners: The Changing Role of the ESL Teacher” (April 2013).
After a brief introduction to the purpose of our meeting and introductions, school-based teachers and district administrators were given the floor. In 14 years of teaching, I can’t remember a time when that had ever been done at any of the countless professional meetings I have attended. I appreciated the centralizing of the practitioners’ voices in the conversation because we have the names and the faces of our students and their families embedded in our experiences. The key to our success with meeting the challenge of bringing the Common Core to the people in our lives is raising teacher efficacy and building collaborative relationships within our professional communities. The brevity of this sentence belies the complexities involved.
The move to the Common Core is requiring many significant shifts in how we do our work, what we expect of ourselves and our colleagues, and what horizons we hope to build with our students. We have to actively prepare to be in the conversation and be ready to make a difference. Please take a moment to read the TESOL Issue Brief, “Overview of the Common Core State Standards for Initiatives for ELLs,” (March 2013) and the report on the convening. I hope you will read these documents as an invitation to the conversation because the uncommon experience of being part of it all CAN and should become common.