Part of the Understanding by Design PD I have been attending is writing a unit. The other math teacher and I have been frustrated that we are missing so much class time to discuss how important class time is. We are spending time reformatting our curriculum into a template that was used 3 cycles ago; she even found the binder filled with UbD units from 2003. Unsurprisingly, our key vocabulary and essential questions were nearly identical: the content of similarity hasn’t changed in the last 10 years. We were asked to brainstorm performance tasks that fit into a variety of categories and easily pulled several from our repertoire of projects we currently use. Then, when we had to write one up we opted to pull out our phones and textbooks rather than pull out our hair re-inventing the wheel. Listening to myself talk about planning on the Infinite Tangents Podcast last week brought a few messages to light (expert editing on Ashli’s part, plus a unique experience of stepping away and listening to myself), one of those is that we should not be reinventing the wheel. Peg Cagle agrees- teachers should not be writing curriculum. So many teachers are reaching burnout lately and I’m sure it’s due in no small part to the million different hats we try to wear – teaching is hard. Working with kids is draining; keeping a classroom set up for a variety of activities, copying assignments or putting together slides and then grading everything is already more to do than we have time for in the school day. Add writing lessons from scratch and making curriculum decisions on top of that? It’s just too much to ask of any one person.
It took nearly three hours. For four people. To write five questions.
Instead of teachers doing the writing, let the curriculum developers do it, and then support the great work they’re doing (so that we get more mathalicious and CME and innovation). Then, teachers do the tweaking and the adapting and the teaching! More from Kate:
We suspect that one important factor in excellent teaching is access to excellent curricular materials. Just like if you want to become a great novelist, part of your education is reading great stories. And if you want to become a great programmer, part of the process is understanding and using great code. I believe, due simply to my own experience using other people’s stuff, that teaching a great lesson (even if someone else wrote it) helps a teacher learn what great teaching looks like. While Mathalicious lessons might be used mostly by the more risk-tolerant, skillful teachers in a building, we would love for their success to have enough gravity to pull their colleagues to the right. (Indeed, we are making plans for supporting them in doing just that. It’s going to be so cool, you guys.) And that over time, that bubble will shift.
How is curriculum development dealt with at your school? How do we earn respect as professional teachers? What does a professional teacher even look like if not someone who writes awesome lessons?
April 5: Edited to add: I think planning lessons and writing lessons are different tasks, but I’m not yet sure how to verbalize that difference.