As with many schools, teachers and administrators across the county, my school and district are moving through the shift to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). We are in the awkward transition stage which includes the push to change practice and consider the new standards which will be assessed by an instrument that is not yet developed, we are still concerned with student achievement on a high stakes test that assesses non-CCSS, and we are using materials and resources - textbooks - that were adopted and designed with the old state standards and assessment in mind.
I recently had a conversation with teachers and fellow administrators in which we were strategizing for upcoming professional development time. The purpose was to discuss how future professional development time would best be used to support teachers. We had an earlier amazing professional development session in which we walked through some resources - websites - that support the CCSS, student engagement and critical thinking while still aligning to our standards and curriculum. What I expected was a discussion about the next session being facilitated or being work time for teachers to collaborate, continue to generate ideas and share.
The conversation started and ended there, but took an interesting twist in the middle. "We want the curriculum," is what I heard. As I clarified what that meant, it boiled down to not only the standards and scope and sequence, but the unit planned which should include the assessment, activities and strategies.
I was taken aback at the apparent desire to have complete canned lessons, or whole units, planned and published for them. I thought we had all learned from the initial standards push in the 90's that standards define the "what" and what proficiency looks like in our students, but they don't necessarily define the "how" and the "why". There still is the art and science of teaching, the ability to connect with students, realize their interests and passions, make the content come alive for them. Leverage technology - or get out of their way. Assess learner needs, differentiate, help them over those hurdles, teach something a different way so that they "get it." There are teacher strengths and varying personality traits that play into lesson delivery. How will a canned lesson or unit allow this? How will published lessons ever be flexible and timely enough to meet all of our learners needs, interests and react to their performance? Is there no time or energy for instructional design, where part of a teacher's true artistry is practiced?
I keep going back to some fundamental beliefs: The book is a resource, not the curriculum. The teacher is the pedagogical and content expert. We serve the students in our care, not the perceived average or groupings such a publication would have to assume, and we are entrusted to bring all of our expertise, knowledge and resources to bear to help our students succeed and achieve.
Let's take the time as professionals to build our resource bank, be in alignment, and deliver extraordinary lessons.