Celebrating Independence!

With the Fourth of July almost upon us and barbeques, fireworks and the beach or mountains beckoning, it seems like some relaxation and celebration are in order. So this week, I’m going to keep this short and celebrate by sharing links to two of the fiercely independent online voices that have helped keep me informed and inspired in this challenging year.

Along with Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris is the voice behind the professional development site Literacy Builders, and she holds the distinction of also being the very first person who didn’t already know me to subscribe to this blog. She and Jan also run Burkins & Yaris: Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, whose blog, in my humble opinion, contains the smartest, most thorough and probing commentary about the Common Core Standards out there. The series they ran about the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) Model Content Frameworks, which threaten to dictate ELA curriculum across the grades, is nothing short of brilliant. And I love the distinction they make between text-based answers and text-based responses in their exploration of the implications of the Standards six instructional shifts.

Jan and Kim provide a great public service for the educational community. (I, for one, knew little about PARCC until I started reading their posts.) They’re also passionate advocates for children as is, in a very different way, poet, teacher and blogger Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. I’d heard about Amy a few years ago when a principal told me about a woman who’d committed herself to writing and posting a poem a day for full year at a site called The Poem Farm. By the time I managed to connect with Amy, that year was over; but Amy was still posting poems and tips for both teachers and student writers, while also launching a second site called Sharing Our Notebooks, in which writers of every shape and size share the actual pages of their notebooks along with how they use them. More recently, she and writer, educator and musician Barry Lane teamed together to write a song called “More Than a Number,” which ends with this powerful and poignant plea:

I’m more than a number.

I invent things when I play.

I collect shells and fossils.

Please hear me when I say

I will not be a ‘1’—

a ‘2’, a ‘3’, or a ‘4’.

I am me. I’m a mystery.

I’m a child—not a score.

So before you grab a book and find a hammock, I hope you take a moment to visit their sites, where you can hear Amy and Barry’s song and maybe even use the letter template that Jan and Kim have provided to let your own independent voices be heard in the PARCC Content Frameworks discussion—because we are not test scores or numbers either. We’re independent thinkers and learners.