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Our Children Advertorial—Words of Thanks

Words of Thanks: Teachers Deserve Our Gratitude for Moving Forward on Common Core State Standards

By Cherie Dimar, District PTA President, Louisville, Ky.

We can all recall a teacher who helped us make a breakthrough when we were students. As parents, we see that professionalism continue with dedicated educators who take the extra effort to help our children succeed.

Teachers should know their work is noticed. That is why I urge fellow PTA members to join me in putting our thanks on paper during Teacher Appreciation Week, this May 6–10.

Specifically, I encourage you to write a letter or note of thanks to teachers who are in the process of implementing the new Common Core State Standards. These math and English standards are providing a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.

We want you to get involved! Here’s how you can participate and get recognized for your efforts, courtesy of the GE Foundation.

  1. Send a letter thanking a teacher for his/her work implementing Common Core State Standards.
  2. Send a copy of your letter to CCSS@pta.org.
  3. Include your contact information.
  4. We will enter each letter into a drawing, where ten winners will receive a teacher appreciation lunch honoring the teacher(s) and PTA letter writer. The winning letters will be posted on PTA.org. The more letters you write, the more chances to win.

Visit PTA.org/CommonCore for more information, including contest rules and a template thank you letter.

Common Core requires a shift in the way teachers teach and students learn; the Standards are set to be fully implemented in the 2014–15 school year in 45 states and D.C. In my school district, a grant from the GE Foundation is allowing teachers to attend on-going Standards Immersion Institutes where they learn about best practices for excellent instruction that are aligned with the Standards.

Let me share two examples of what is happening in the classroom. Teachers are introducing more content-rich nonfiction than they have probably used before. Fiction is still part of the curriculum but we know our students need to be better at reading and comprehending everything from newspapers to instructional manuals.

In math, teachers are pursuing greater conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application with equal intensity. Perhaps, like me, you learned math through the help of a lot of memorization. The new standards say the understanding of why 2+2=4 is more important than memorizing the answer is 4.

This requires new ways of thinking for our teachers. Imagine you have done your job a certain way for many years—and excelled at it. Then, for many good reasons, things change a bit. It can feel uncomfortable. This is what are teachers are going through and why a letter right now would be the right touch.

Monica Sims, a teacher in Chicago, says, “In my own practice, the Common Core has helped me analyze my teaching more deeply. In reading, I am more conscientious about making sure that all of my questions are text dependent and that the reading material I prepare for students is rigorous and complex enough. In math, I feel validated to spend more time reviewing the core concepts students need to learn so that when they move beyond my grade level, they will be prepared. I believe the Common Core helps teachers to focus their teaching on mastery rather than racing time.”  

The movement towards college and career-ready standards is critical to make sure all children have better educational and economic opportunity. Many teachers are turning for insights to achievethecore.org. Developed by Student Achievement Partners, achievethecore.org provides free resources for educators including an overview of the Common Core, the latest research, and other teachers explaining why this matters.

You can also learn more about the difference Common Core is making in the classroom at all age levels by visiting GEFoundation.com and viewing the informational videos.

None of us can do it alone: School leaders are working to add capabilities for school-level staff development; teachers are undertaking professional learning opportunities; parents are getting engaged; and America’s leading foundations are providing financial and structural support.

Teachers are truly indispensable partners for success. So join me in saying, “Thank you.”