It’s Flatter. And It Still Has Two Sides

Dr. Phil has a catch-phrase that lends itself well to any discussion of education and education reform:

“No matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides.”

This Dr. Phil-accredited aphorism is certainly explored in the must-read professional development book of the summer, Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement. The opening chapter of the book invites the reader to look at the Common Core Standards through two specific lenses: as the curmudgeon or as if they were gold (3).

This morning, I made pancakes as part of the birthday celebration/sleepover wherein we hosted six girls age ten and eleven. These girls are fifth grade bound in two weeks. They couldn’t tell you one thing about the Common Core Standards. And as a responsible respondent, this is not flat rhetoric from Mr. Hankins. I asked them.

Then Maddie asked if I could please go back upstairs.

It seems no one really wants to engage in the essential conversations any more.

But back to the spatula at hand.

Pancakes. They have a common core too. They are dependent upon the person that introduces the mix to the griddle. And reader. . .very quickly. . .do it with me. We all know how to tell when the griddle is ready. I can see you. You get a little water on your finger tips and you flick them toward the griddle right? Right. Now, you are ready.

And I don’t mean to digress, but did you note that I did not guide you toward some griddle I think is great. You already know that this is appropriate platform. I did not specify a spatula, but you know it is the tool tested and proved by time. Funny, early spatulas were nothing more than a flattened surface acutely-angled to a long handle. Oh. How far we’ve come in our tools. And, we offered no holistic for heat. You know your stove. You know the hot spots on your own griddle.

But in the back of your mind, you know about pancakes. And you know about the people who eat them. Pancake people and the kitchen captains all bring to the buffet their own essential questions:

How many people are gathered around the table?

How many pancakes will each person consume today?

Are these people pleased to partake of the plain pancake?

Or do you have members of the blueberry brotherhood??

A champion of chocolate chips?

Or maybe you have person at the table thinking, “if you turned up the heat and pressed a little harder, we could all have waffles.”

And all of these will need to be considered. Later. First, you have to have the mix ready. The foundation. This is what you bring to the griddle before you sprinkle in the first embellishment. And the mix should take care of itself. After all, it’s already been standardized. It’s been packaged neatly. The instructions are clearly scripted.

Perhaps you’ve noticed it. No matter the brand you choose, there is usually a specific mix:water ratio. For today’s breakfast, used four cups of mix and two cups of water. I had to combine the instructions of two different groups because there was nowhere on the helpful grid provided within the box’s text that could help me with my specific situation.

And like you, I found the consistency that is found in all pancake mixes. They are never consistent. But, you, griddle guy or griddle gal. You know what mix looks like when it is ready to work. You might need a little more mix. You might need a little more water.

The box is the guide, but you are the gourmet.

I’m going to say that again.

The box is the guide, but you are the gourmet.

There is no framework that can take the place of your expertise. Your consideration of:

The Amount.

The Shape.

The Embellishments or the Recognition that Plain and Pure is Enough

The Timing.

The Flip.

The Waiting.

And finally, The Presentation.

And when everyone around the table is now actively consuming those pancakes, you see how they fit. And every once and while, you’ll find–like I found this morning–that one child who asks for Nutella.

I thought, “Okay. I’ll play. Let’s see what happens here.”

With finesse and artistry of one who has done this before, Charlie took her pancake, spread it with Nutella, piled some strawberries and bananas in the middle, and made her own breakfast taco sort of thing. Right there at the table.

This was not an option invited by the suggestions on the box. But before I knew it, other girls were trying their own hands at assembling their own creations.
I just had to make sure the mix was right. I also know this: I can use the box mix, but I also know the essential ingredients to put into the bowl when I have no pre-packaged mix in the pantry. These are common core ingredients. But I digress.

The pancakes were cooked and delivered. The girls knew what to do.

After all, innovation and creativity. . .it’s a part of our common core. Every one of us. And sometimes, all that is required is the ingredient you had tucked away but hadn’t put upon the table just yet. Then someone asks for it. . .and you are ready.

Each and every one of us brings that unique something to the learning community. Can you see it tucked behind the black beans and instant mashed potatoes? Right there. By the crushed pineapple (wink).

The box is my guide. But I am the gourmet.  And I know two things that I always add to the mix that are my secret ingredient.



What? You thought I was going to tell you these now?


What would make you come back after I did?


You know how to keep a few readers in suspense?


I’ll share THAT in the next installment.

A friendly reminder that we will be discussing pages 102-197 (or Chapters 6-11) which discuss the writing portion of the Common Core Standards from Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Chris Lehman on July 31st. The conversation begins at 8PM EST at Twitter hashtag #pathccss. There will be an archive of the conversation available after the discussion.

Kathy Perret has put together a very nice archive of July 10th’s discussion of the Common Core Reading Standards at Storify.

2 thoughts on “It’s Flatter. And It Still Has Two Sides

  1. Love the line about the box being the guide, but we all are the gourmets, and therefore, we as teachers are the ones doing the teaching/planning, not the Common Core.
    Thanks for sharing, man

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