One of the most surprising conclusions I’ve come to as a new teacher is that new teachers should not be in the business of creating curriculum. We should not be creating or even searching for unit plans, tests, power points, labs, worksheets, guided notes, or activities day in and day out.
One, we suck at it.
Two, it takes too much time.
Three, there are better things that we could be doing.
Here’s the pitch. Given that there are already experts who love curriculum design, who have the time, experience, and research, to have created units that already anticipate student misunderstandings and that already align state and national standards to assessments to activities, a new teacher’s value added is not in designing the curriculum, but in doing all the things that the curriculum designers can not do because they are not there, with our students, in those precious moments of learning.
A new teacher should be spending his or her time modifying the curriculum for his or her unique situation and unique kids, in tutoring and in giving feedback, and in supplementing the curriculum when he or she discovers gaps in the students’ understanding that are not adequately addressed by the curriculum. Perhaps even more importantly, a new teacher should be calling home to connect with families, going to sudent sports games and music recitals and dance showcases to build relationships, to growing as a teacher professionally by observing master teachers, reading, and planning new techniques to try. Finally, a new teacher should be exercising, and sleeping, both things that often drop by the wayside those first few years.
Far from being confining, I think a rich curriculum which maps out an entire year’s worth of assessments and activities, would be empowering, giving me back hours of my day, every day, so that I can be awake, refreshed, and ready to interact with my kids and respond to their needs, instead of being buried in work on my computer screen, only guessing at what might or might not work. And slowly, as I grow as a professional, I can then move into curriculm design myself, but just like my students, I need time, and I need support, in order to get there.
What would you be doing with your time if you weren’t creating curriculum?
Curricula that I admire because they are true to the idea that students are active learners who create their own understanding of the world include:
Reading Like a Historian from the Stanford History Education Group, which teaches high school history through diving deep into primary documents: http://sheg.stanford.edu/?q=node/45
Investigating and Questioning our World Through Science and Technology from the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, which teaches middle school science through inquiry-based units which build deep conceptual understanding: http://www.umich.edu/~hiceweb/iqwst/index.html
The Inquiry Project by TERC, which guides third to fifth graders on a journey of discovery about the particle model of matter: http://inquiryproject.terc.edu/