A lot of hands went up in the air in Marta Townsend’s 4th-grade class room at E.J. Martinez Elementary School in Santa Fe today. She was using the new Common Core standards to drill comprehensive reading skills into her students, and her demeanor demands respect and also suggests patience, kindness, and humor – one reason her kids kept raising their hands every time she asked a question. They were reading articles from The New Mexican to learn not just about reporting but about summarizing a story, focusing on details, and figuring out “why” such stories merit attention. When she spoke to them about citing evidence within the text – a Common Core goal – one kids said that made sense: “You need evidence with a judge!” Townsend has been a teacher for 18 years and has served at E.J. Martinez for five years. She’s behind the Common Core movement – “Any time you are engaging them in depth and rigor, it’s a good thing” – and kept reassuring them that someday the ability to develop critical thinking skills would come in handy. To prove this, she turned them loose on me in an impromptu question-and-answer session. They were very polite, wrote their questions out on note cards, and generally appeared serious about their approach, though now and then a humorous aside or moment popped up. One kid asked how I get paid (not what I get paid, thankfully) and another said, “Have you ever written about our school?”

One of the stories they were reading and analyzing in class today is my colleague Adele Oliviera’s recent piece on a “snack back-pack” project designed to ensure that hungry kids don’t stay hungry. Here’s the link: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/article_eba8a3a6-3144-560d-858f-fe34f8495504.html