News Column

Laughing at Common Core: Harrison County teachers crack up at new standards with Chicago theater company

August 6, 2014

By Lauren Walck, The Sun Herald

Aug. 06--GULFPORT -- If there's one thing not usually seen in a school just before classes start, it's a room full of laughing teachers.

But two days shy of the first bell, Harrison County teachers were chuckling at and applauding a performance by Chicago's Wavelength theater group. Educators, assistants and administrators from Harrison Central High School, Saucier Elementary and West Wortham Middle and Elementary joined those from Bel-Aire Elementary at that campus Tuesday morning.

The subject matter: Common Core.

"If we wait long enough, maybe it will just go away," said one actor mimicking a hypothetical teacher.

Four actors accompanied by a piano used musical and improv skits to poke fun at Common Core's quirks, from an enthusiastic support of technology to lofty learning goals couched in ten-dollar words and long acronyms.

The bit that drew the most laughs was the song "We Test Everything."

"That song hits close to home," said one of the teachers on stage who volunteered to be in the skit.

For teachers facing a major overhaul to the way they do things, the humor was a "needed relief," said Bel-Aire principal Heather Blenden.

"I think it's such a tremendous time of change that it touched a nerve with most of us," said Brenda Burton, special education teacher at Bel-Aire.

She said all the teachers started professional training Monday, so the stress of the new standards is fresh on their minds.

"I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed," Burton said, and the principal agreed.

"We're all in the same boat," Blenden said. "We're all changing and we're all afraid of it."

She brought Wavelength to the school because she liked the performances the troupe did along the Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

The company performed in the brand-new Pass Christian High School after it was built in 2001 and wanted to help after hearing it was destroyed in the storm, said Jim Winter, a former high school English teacher who founded Wavelength in 1980.


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Source: Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS)

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