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OPINION: Teaching to Greatness

The next ingredient in cultivating greatness is passion. A doer must be passionate about what he or she is undertaking.

And finally, add the third element – feedback – to the mix and one has a complete recipe for greatness. By way of example, Zhao showed a slide of a beautifully drawn butterfly created by a sixth grade boy in art class. The next slide showed the first attempt the boy had made at drawing the butterfly. It was rudimentary and ill proportioned. Based upon feedback provided by the boy’s art teacher, the boy’s next few iterations of the butterfly were much improved and eventually became an exquisite drawing, resulting from a deliberate commitment to greatness on everyone’s part.

Having explained the precursors to greatness, Zhao went on to note that the Common Core, quite contrary to its intended purpose, is spurring curricula in the public sector that are long on breadth and short on depth primarily because they are accountability-test driven. As such, the Common Core is proving incongruous for cultivating greatness. First, the Common Core is being used to set up a race to “cover” large quantities of content in a relatively short period of time. When the exposure to content is cursory and short lived, the time that is needed to drill down on it and the opportunity to get transformative feedback is not available to students. And what about passion? The palpable growing public dissatisfaction with the race to “cover” material so that students can produce on state mandated tests is borne of the discontent of students and parents who are stressed and disenchanted with test-driven learning.

During my 30-plus years in education as a teacher, a coach, and an administrator, it has become clear to me that great teaching and learning come from the process of taking deep dives into topics and ideas. As implemented in the public sector to date, the Common Core standards are not achieving their intended result.

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