As I view my school through the lens of an instructional leader, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the complexity that is involved in educating a single child. Proficient, Advanced, Students with Disabilities, Gap Students, Basic, Below Basic, At Risk, At Grade Level, Below Grade Level…the labels and individual situations of students are seemingly endless. Why is it so complicated and complex? Why is there not a constant that can be applied to all students in the instructional process? Why? Because each student IS complex.

I have used an example in the past with my teachers to help them understand just how complex each student is. I ask them to think of the almost infinite number of snowflakes that have fallen in the history of the earth and how each of these snowflakes is completely unique and different from any snowflake that has ever been. All these completely unique snowflakes are composed of only two elements (oxygen and hydrogen). A human on the other hand is composed of 60 different elements, so how unique and complex are these entities we call students!? Then, factor in environmental variables, parenting, and socioeconomic status, and the individuality of each student begins to multiply exponentially.

But the students are just one half of the uniqueness within the instructional process. The teachers are the other half, and their uniqueness is just as individualized and complex as the students. I have struggled for years to find a commonality to anchor our instruction to all these unique and complex individuals within the building, to basically get everyone on the same page. This year, as I have focused more on being an instructional leader, I have also afforded myself more time for observing vs. evaluating. And through these anecdotal observations of students and teachers, I have found that our transition to Common Core State Standards is that anchor I have been looking for to at least get us within the same book, if not on the same page.

To many, it may seem like a no brainer that Common Core State Standards would put students and teachers heading in the same direction. I mean, after all, the word “common” is in the title; but the misconception that educators tend to fall into is that Common Core is about a shift to a new curriculum. In fact, the shift is more about a change in instruction than a change in standards. For the first time in my career, I have seen teachers rallied around a “change” because Common Core affects teachers’ pedagogy, and this is a very personal thing. I also see students engaged in multifaceted ways because of this shift in pedagogy that addresses individual learning styles like never before, so all these unique individuals (students and teachers) in the school are being anchored to the instructional process. The instructional process is the most powerful thing in the school because it fuses uniqueness with the uniting phenomenon of learning.

The bottom line is that uniqueness is a good thing. However, it is also a challenge, so honing in on our instructional practices through the Common Core State Standards becomes the common ground where uniqueness isn’t suppressed but rather supported and guided.