There seems to have always been pre-packaged programs available for districts to purchase. Whether they came as a kit, a textbook, or just a set of ideas they have been a part of education for so many years and will continue to be as long as there are districts searching for the right answer, searching for guidance. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. I am not an opponent to the purchased curriculum, I am not an opponent of buying resources for teachers. However, I am an opponent of buying a program, no matter how great it is, and then telling everyone to follow every single thing in it.
You see, we don’t teach the children that these researchers taught. Our students will never share the same experience, nor the same background. And that is important because if a program does not allow us to adapt it to our students, then it will not be as powerful as we need it to be. If we are chained to a curriculum map based on other people’s students, then we are not teaching the students in front of us.
So by all means; go ahead and purchase the curriculum out there. There are great ones out there that have a solid foundation, but if you do, please make sure you do the following three things as well:
- Create an open dialogue. Teachers need to know that they can question the program and that they have a voice. There should be no sacred cow in our district. Make sure that this is not a top-down decision and that you constantly assess whether this program is what you need. Just because you spent money on something does not mean it is right for everyone.
- Allow teachers to modify, adapt, and change as needed. That doesn’t mean compromising the program, but instead it means trusting teachers as the professionals they are to create an even better experience for their students. One that allows them to teach the very kids they are supposed to teach. That does not mean teachers are being subversive, it simply means that they are responding to gaps that they see and they are doing something about. No program will ever be the perfect fit for all of our kids, all of our teachers, and all of our schools. They are vast road maps, not step-by-step directions.
- Ask the students. If students are losing their love of reading, writing, science, math or whatever program it is they are in, then we have a serious problem. It does not matter that the program may be the best for creating deep comprehension if students hate doing it. If a curriculum program is creating robots in our classroom then we should be worried. And we should take action and we do that best by asking the students what is going on. Then we listen and then we change.
So if you find yourself in the situation where you can tell that something is not working for your students, speak up. Do it kindly, but do speak up, because administration cannot engage in a conversation that they do not know is needed. Ask your students, involve parents, and collect your evidence. Start a conversation before a program becomes an educational barrier to success. Don’t stay silent if you see something harming students, the change starts with us and our courage.
PS: And if you are using money to purchase curriculum but not using money to buy books, then the priorities need to change.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.