Monday, August 16, 2010

Rethinking Curriculum Refuse

I spent some time revisiting some of my old blog posts and came across this one from last August. As I sift through my own files and ready myself for the school year, being reminded that every lesson I teach doesn’t hold equal weight was humbling.

My good friend once said to me that in the life of a teacher, July is like Saturday, a time for relaxing and regrouping; and August is like Sunday, a time to start thinking about and preparing for work.

Well, it’s here. It’s August. While many of us are still enjoying outings to the beach and riding roller coasters with our hands up, in the corner of our minds, we are entertaining thoughts of September. We are thinking about unpacking dust-covered books and decorating bulletin boards and readying our classrooms for the first day of school. In addition, we are organizing our materials, paging through professional resources, and thinking about what we will teach this year.

So many teachers start the school year with good intentions. We vow that children will read independently every day. We promise to make time each day for writing. We will conference and assess and plan meaningful instruction. But then, we have our first faculty meeting and we receive the laundry list of directives for this school year. Then, there’s the pressure of back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences and report cards. Next, it’s prepping for the ELA, the math assessment, the Terra Nova, and whatever other standardized tests are coming down the line.

There go our good intentions.

Feeling like there is too much on our plates is a common lament. As you start this school year, I urge you to keep your eye on your best intentions. Years ago, I heard Lucy Calkins speak about making time for the teaching you know is important. She said that sometimes, “you have to take carloads of curriculum to the dump.”

As you sift through your thoughts and plans and ideas for this school year, think carefully about what you do. If you’re not sure if a piece of your curriculum is worth keeping, ask yourself this question: How does this benefit my students? If you can’t think of at least three good reasons, take it to the dump.

So, don’t forget to share—what ideas, practices, and lessons will you file in the trash this year?

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