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corn fieldI am but one voice in a field of many - just one voice with a place to speak providing an opportunity for many to respond. Iowa is known as a state providing Fields of Opportunities. So too will this blog provide an opportunity for those in the field to speak through my words or their own - a place to speak about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Iowa Core implementation.

During the 2014-15 school year, I was given a rare opportunity to give voice to what was happening in schools across Iowa as I traveled over 15,000 miles making visits to every Iowa county as the 2014 Iowa Teacher of the Year. It was an honor to see personally the dedication of school districts toward creating learning that comes alive for students.

In those travels one of the points that triggered a great deal of conversation both in districts and in communities across our state was the implementation of the Iowa Core state standards. During my term, I delivered several speeches on the Iowa Core to various community groups from Rotaries to Optimists along with retirement organizations and Lions Clubs. In the context of this speech, the quote of famous coach John Wooden came to mind: "Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be."

If we are to be relevant to today's student where information is but a click away, it becomes crucial that we work with students on what they do with this information. In every Iowa classroom we must guide our students to be critical thinkers who can meaningfully communicate and collaborate in a fast-paced world. This is a shift we must make, and the Iowa Core is a game changer for how we change practices in our classrooms.

The Iowa Core state standards provide the impetus to make us deeply examine the learning we expect to take place. It goes beyond a list of skills to master by providing a focus on what students are to be able to do with what they are learning while providing a common focus for all instruction across our state. Through the Iowa Core we are assured all grade levels across Iowa have similar learning expectations, expectations that are both rigorous and challenging.

The development of the Iowa Core is an answer to deepening the learning experiences in our classrooms. It is an answer to the call that came out in the early 21st Century for more rigorous, relevant, and results-directed curricula and instruction incorporating critical thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration, and communication. The focus is not on what activities we are doing, what texts we are using, what themes we are presenting. The Iowa Core state standards simply provide for us a backbone upon which to build instruction. The strength of the standards lies in their rigor and relevance and does not prescribe for us curriculum or teaching techniques. They give us a framework upon which to build authentic learning in the classroom. The selection of curriculum, the application of creative instructional techniques, and the use of characteristics of effective instruction are left to the discretion of local school districts and teaching teams.

Several years ago I served as the "Voice from the Trenches" for Iowa State University pre-service teachers. The intent was to provide that personal voice for those not yet in the field from a practicing teacher, a voice that described the weekly ups and downs, ins and outs of teaching in a classroom with living, breathing students. That is the intent of this blog - a voice from the field to describe progress in the implementation of consistent state standards. Honest reflection is a strong learning tool and can make us painfully aware if what we do in the classroom has the impact we desire for our students. Through reflection, we pull ourselves back and thoughtfully consider the impact of our instruction on learning. This blog will be a reflection of work in my district and other districts as we work tirelessly to bring alive in our classrooms the Iowa Core state standards.

If one carefully examines the Iowa Core website, you will find excellent ideas on the implementation of Iowa Core in the classroom. Resources include Characteristics of Effective Instruction, an Iowa Core Implementation Guide, and Universal Constructs: Essential for 21st Century Success. All of these resources will help us as we implement consistent state standards that will enable our students to be critical thinkers in today's information rich environment.

This is an exciting time to be engaged in education across Iowa - both exciting and challenging. I look forward to learning with you and sharing the Iowa Core journey as a "Voice from the Field."

Points to Ponder:

  • How has the Iowa Core been a game changer in your classroom?
  • How is it affecting the way you teach and what students are learning?


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