Talking with Tennessee Educators about the Common Core State Standards Summer Trainings

Tennessee science teacher and instructional coach Christopher Bowen

Tennessee science teacher and instructional coach Christopher Bowen.
Photo credit: Christopher Bowen

Read our full feature story on the TNCore training here.

Christopher Bowen, a Johnson City, Tennessee middle school science teacher and instructional coach

Q.  What was different about Tennessee’s approach to Common Core training?

A.   “One thing that set it apart… is that they had teachers apply to be trainers. They used us instead of having a group come in and do the professional development. That probably helped with buy-in more than anything else.”

Q.  What advice would you give to other States that want to do something similar?

A.   “There’s no way to have this big of a change, to have so much buy-in, unless it’s done by teachers who have used it, modified it and seen it work.”

Q.  Are you in touch with other coaches?

A.   “Yes, we started this online community. All of us are a close-knit group. We’re talking about things other than the Common Core now. We’ve become this vast collaborative network, which has been amazing.”

Q.  Did the State team (TN Core team) support you well during training?

A.   “I have never seen a State department or government entity give such immediate feedback. We had a code word we could use if we needed a quick answer to a question during the training. If we texted the code word to the TN Core team we got a response in three to four minutes. I got answers in live time while I was teaching, while the participants were working on something. It really built this sense that we were a team, and that we could get the answers and that we cared about getting the answers.”

Judy Schinbeckler, a Tennessee high school teacher and English language arts instructional coach

Judy Schinbeckler, high school teacher and English language arts instructional coach. Photo credit: Judy Schinbeckler

A Q & A with…..

Judy Schinbeckler, a Cookeville, Tennessee high school teacher and English language arts instructional coach

Q. What was the training you went through to become a coach like?

A.   “It was probably the most intense training I ever had. It pushed me to my boundaries as an educator-learner. It was very strenuous training, but I loved it and it was right up my alley.”

Q.  What did you do in the training sessions?

A.   “The very first thing [attendees are asked to] do is to start out as a student. They take an assessment aligned to the Common Core. That was an eye-opener for the teachers. They hated it, of course. But they could see some of the activities their students will be asked to do, and it’s not the kind of work we’re currently doing.”

Q.  Did you have the sense that teachers find the shift to Common Core State Standards difficult?

A.   “It will be for some of them. For some of them, it won’t be quite as much of a leap. You have teachers who are already leaning toward this type of teaching. It depends on where the teacher is at professionally. For new teachers coming in, it’ll be the only thing they know.”

Q.  Did the teachers in your classes collaborate during the training sessions?

A.   “Even though you have a leader in the classroom, collaborative activities were built in [to the training sessions]. Teachers liked that. There were people from all over the State there. I thought that was wonderful.”