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Professional development different this year than in past years

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Oct 07 2013 03:48:14 PM CDT

A conference is held every year for educators to learn new things, find resources and find support in each other.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

Every year teachers from around the state go into professional development for a few days. But this year was a little different for math and science teachers. They are becoming the students to prepare for an entirely different education system.

A conference is held every year for educators to learn new things, find resources and find support in each other.

"It's sort of a team effort, and we're all coming together to work on common goals,” said Earla Durfee, conference coordinator of Saturday’s Idaho Science Teacher Association and Idaho Council for Teachers of Math conference. "They also collaborate with other teachers from the state, so they can share ideas that way too."

As the ISTA/ICTM conference coordinator, Durfee organized several aspects of the conference, like prizes, materials presenters would need, and presenter themselves, like Chris Shore, the keynote speaker.

Shore has been one of four people rolling out the Common Core State Standards in his California school district. He brought a much different take on the Common Core than Idahoans have heard, comparing them to the Wizard of Oz.

"The Emerald City is the Common Core,” Shore said. “It is a very beautiful thing. I mean, if we can get kids to think and communicate their thinking, who can argue that would be a bad goal? But what we have between us and the Emerald City is the Wicked Witch and a bunch of flying monkeys."

He said the wicked witch and those flying monkeys are things like lack of funding, time and training.

"Part of my presentations here was how find out how conquer the Wicked Witch and how do we get by those flying monkeys,” Shore said, “and make it down the yellow brick road?"

So he and other presenters showed teachers some ways to teach in this new way, using new technology and basic logic skills to explain why you answered the way you did, rather than what the answer is.

He says it's not about memorizing and regurgitating, it's about problem solving and critical thinking. He says that's especially important in math.

"Ten years after high school, most kids aren't going to need to know the quadratic formula,” said Shore. “So, what are we using the quadratic formula for? What we found out we need to be doing is using that to teach kids how to think and communicate their thinking.

While Shore said this is a monumental task for the United States education system, he said teachers across the world have been using this system for a while. Durfee agrees this is a major transition, but this task is uniting teachers in a whole new way.

"When they walk away from a conference like this, they feel refreshed and motivated to go back to the classroom,” said Durfee. “Teachers need that. They need that uplift."

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