Been giving a lot of thought lately into what are the responsibilities of districts to provide curriculum, scope/sequence, and planning tools. Many years ago, the Bellevue School District went on strike because of the extremes in their ‘lock step’ approach. Some districts/schools don’t provide enough support for new and veteran teachers, and flounder. Striking the right balance between what’s expected, necessary, and valuable is challenging for the most skilled of educators. Consultants are often called in, and depending on their cultural connection to an environment, either their messages are valued and heard, or not. In other words, if the consultant’s advice doesn’t resonate with some staff members, it’s hard to create meaningful instructional shifts. Fortunately, three consultants I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with have been true mentors and patient providers; however, not all fit this. It’s not them, it’s us.
It’s a dodgy and dangerous to attempt to “tell” teachers what they should and should not be teaching–you can’t make everyone happy, and teachers may bristle. I liken this to when I was getting my BFA; I wanted the guidance and critique of the master artists/professors, and with permission and safety they would ask if they could pick up my brush and ‘show me’ a suggestion. Those moments were rare and beautifully balanced: if they had bullied their way and said ‘this is how it’s done’ they would have lost and angered me. Showing suggestions and giving reasons why is always better. Sound familiar? Isn’t this what we do for our students, too?
Leaders have different styles, too. I’ve been reflecting on the years when I was a Curriculum Leader, and what I got right, and what I could have done better. It’s moot now, because I’m not in that position any longer, but do need to mind my own path. But what I got right was right for me–not sure anyone else valued it. I needed calendars and assessment windows. I needed organization and concrete, global time constructs of scope/sequence. I needed to communicate and be the liaison between the district and the ELA staff. For the most part, I believe I was successful. I know one colleague believed I wasn’t “collaborative” which is laughable because that’s almost all I am. But that’s okay–I heard her words (though she didn’t confront me directly) and took it to heart, and reflected on how I was delivering the messages from the district to make it easier. Other colleagues understood the concept of “don’t shoot the messenger.” What this really says is how powerless and lacking in autonomy when there’s a ‘top down’ approach or mandate. My colleague was feeling powerless, and at that moment in history perhaps unable to articulate it. We all were.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
– Dale Carnegie
It’s important to recognize when emotions are running high where the frustration comes from. And my big question is, in this day and age of shared resources and PLNs (professional learning networks), what value does mandated curriculum have? How do the ones in power balance the needs of the many with local, artisan needs of the micro-community of a single classroom? I may always rely on my own approach in planning via big calendars and researching others skilled sources.
If you need personal resources:
TpT is a great resource if you not only don’t want to reinvent wheels but add rims and caps, too. For $10, you can download an entire unit on writing research papers. I’ve gotten some valuable lessons from Laura Randazzo –some are kind of thin, but I’ve altered them to suit my students’ needs.
Much is made fun of about Pinterest and teachers/teaching, but I don’t think that’s quite fair. Yes, you can fall down that rabbit hole, but curating your own and others’ share lesson ideas feels productive, too.
Find images, writing ideas, science, math, and all things gif-fy and awesome.
Need a question asked for the good of the group? Search for #edchat, #pln, and other teachers/educators and you will not be disappointed.
I’m @mrskellylove . Don’t mind the gamer friends, too.
And always go back to the tried and true. Seek out Kelly Gallagher. Kylene Beers. And spend time in your own mental ‘studio’– never forget teaching is an art, and you are not an apprentice.