Take a peek at most people’s “bucket lists” and you would likely see a litany of exotic locales to visit and grand adventures to take, but the wish list of Dr. Miranti Murphy, a National Education Association (NEA) Master Teacher, is a bit different. Instead of cruises and safaris, her list consists of creative lessons she wants to craft and fun field trips she would like to lead before her days as a teacher come to an end.
Fortunately, Murphy’s retirement is not imminent. This is good news not only for her second grade students, but also for fellow NEA-represented teachers looking for Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned lessons. Murphy is among 90 teachers who, throughout the current school year, have been sharing their lessons on an open platform through BetterLesson, an organization dedicated to working with NEA to distribute educators’ teaching expertise across the country to aid in the effective implementation of the CCSS. These lessons, primarily focused on math and English language arts, can be found at cc.betterlesson.com.
“I understand that Common Core is not going smoothly in some areas, but I remain optimistic about it,” says Murphy, a National Board Certified teacher who has been instructing in Florida’s Broward County for nearly 30 years. “I understand and support what the standards are trying to accomplish, but lessons are only part of learning. It’s also about creating a nurturing, positive, and non-competitive environment. With Common Core, I have ownership of my lessons. It is clear what is expected of me, and of my students, but I can still tap into my creativity.”
Not every teacher shares Murphy’s enthusiasm for Common Core, though. Many are frustrated about an emphasis on high-stakes assessment, while others feel they have not been adequately prepared for the transition. NEA’s Master Teacher Program is just one of several recently launched NEA initiatives created to provide concrete solutions for our nation’s public school students.
For instance, a $60 million fund called the Great Public Schools Fund was recently introduced to invest in state and local initiatives that improve student success and strengthen the teaching profession. Over a span of ten years, the Great Public Schools Fund will support innovative projects and ideas proposed by educators, including peer assistance and review programs, teacher mentoring, school safety, technology, and, of course, Common Core implementation. In addition, the new Raise Your Hand campaign promises to provide an avenue for educators to access resources as they make the transition to a CCSS-aligned curriculum.
The goal of NEA’s Master Teacher Program, specifically, is to ensure the success of Common Core by putting teachers in the driver’s seat, which allows the initiative to move forward. Through the unique partnership between NEA and BetterLesson, the premier provider of online teacher-generated resources, NEA teachers can access comprehensive lessons in math and English language arts that were created, taught and tested by NEA-represented teachers, like Murphy, who have experience incorporating CCSS standards into their daily lessons.
The NEA Master Teacher-designed lessons, which are expected to top 16,000 in total by year’s end, aim to provide teachers with everything they need to successfully teach a lesson that is aligned with the Common Core. The lessons set themselves apart from those offered on other online sites in that they offer a narrative explaining the “how” and “why” of a lesson; use a video to show the instruction from start to finish; provide reflections from the Master Teacher; and include student examples. Each lesson also includes a list of resources. All lessons posted on the site must also receive a “seal of approval” from an NEA “Master Teacher Coach.”
For example, Murphy illustrates how the story of Cinderella can help teach young students to analyze fictional writing. Using a handful of versions of the beloved story – featuring a Korean Cinderella, a puppet-themed adaptation of the tale, and a Wild West Cinderella – students can see how a person’s cultural perspective can influence literature. The steps of the lesson are as clear as Cinderella’s glass slipper.
“It’s definitely a lot of work to prepare a lesson to go live,” says Murphy. “But it’s worth it. Teachers need to use both technology and the power of our association to move education forward. We really are the key to our students’ success.”
Murphy also knows how easy it is for students to fall through the cracks of the education system when teachers aren’t invested in their students’ success. Many years ago, she and her family left Indonesia to come to the United States. She remembers sitting in a second grade classroom in South Florida not understanding a word of English. Murphy knows she could have become a sad statistic. Fortunately, thanks to a cadre of talented, creative and patient teachers, Murphy became a happy and successful student instead.
“I’d like to think that I am a more patient teacher because of my own experience,” says Murphy. “I know that teachers have a special gift to connect students with their dreams. I believe that Common Core will help us in that effort. I am privileged to be a part of this effort to make the initiative successful. It has been an enriching experience.”
With her enthusiasm and passion, one gets the feeling that unique, enriching lessons will continue to fill Murphy’s bucket list for a long-time to come. Fortunately for her students – and other NEA teachers – the good thing about lists is one can always add to them!