Have you ever been asked to create curriculum when you felt like you went to school to teach?
In an effort to save money, we have heard some districts are having teachers work collaboratively to design daily lessons for the state standards. This poses a problem. When are teachers going to find time to create top notch standards based lessons when they are in classrooms every day?
There are two ways districts think they are saving money. One is they are trying to find free standards based material for their teachers to use. The other is they are asking their teachers to be curriculum creators. Now don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Districts might save one penny now, but waste pounds of pennies later on when they realize their plan to save money backfired. Read on to hear my opinions on why I believe districts should make curriculum decisions with their eyes wide open.
Take out the “R” in FREE and you get FEE
Upon further investigation into why a prestigious Michigan district did not choose WriteSteps, we uncovered the truth that the district went with a “free” resource. Denise Dusseau, WriteSteps’ Curriculum Creator, looked into the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) CCSS Units they went with. MAISA CCSS Units is an example of a consortium of school districts currently working to create writing units adhered to the Common Core Standards.
Denise discovered that like with many things, when you take out the “R” in FREE, you get FEE. The supposedly “free” writing units offered to schools actually require teachers to have the full version of Lucy Calkins in order to teach the complete MAISA lesson plans. Therefore, if teachers do not have Lucy Calkins, they will have to take the time to create the lessons themselves. It’s like when your kids open their Christmas presents and are so excited to use them, only to discover you forgot to buy the AAA batteries!
Plus she discovered the standards are not even addressed in the pacing guides! I understand school districts are trying these free units in an effort to save money, but as the age old saying goes, “You get what you pay for!”
Experiences and Observations from Creating Curriculum While in the Trenches
I ran into numerous challenges when creating lesson plans collaboratively with my co-workers. Here is what I discovered:
- Collaboration among teachers to create lessons involves a lot of work.
- Different viewpoints are great, but I spent a lot of my time explaining why I chose a certain style of lesson to other teachers, and vice versa.
- The variety of different teaching styles and opinions disrupted the flow and continuity for students.
- I believe elementary teachers are taken advantage of. As a teacher I was a generalist and taught all the subjects. But, I think administrators assume we are specialists in all subjects. If a teacher agrees to be a curriculum creator for writing, will they also be asked to be curriculum creators for math, reading, spelling, science, and social studies?
- While I was meeting, planning and creating, I couldn’t give my best to my students.
Not all Teachers are Skilled at Creating Lesson Plans
Let’s be honest. Some teachers love creating lesson plans and can whip up great lessons in no time! But what about the teacher that finds the process difficult and time consuming? Compiling and creating lesson plans takes a lot of work. I know because it took me years of research and planning to create all of the lesson plans that were included in the original WriteSteps. The time went by in a snap because of my passion for teaching writing. However, not all teachers want to spend countless hours outside of the classroom perfecting lessons on a subject they may not particularly be passionate about. Many teachers originally decided on their career paths because they are passionate about TEACHING, not creating lesson plans.
The moral of this story is look before you leap! “Free” will most likely always equal fee in the end, whether it be a fee of money or a fee of time. If you try a free program, chances are you’re going to waste a year and discover that “free” really isn’t free, and you will be hunting for a different solution. Likewise, asking teachers to develop lesson plans to meet their State Standards hurts their effectiveness to do what they do best, teach!
With WriteSteps, teachers do not need to wonder if they are using the correct curriculum; it’s all there for them in the daily lesson plans that are provided. Teachers won’t have to struggle or stress about time when it comes to creating writing lessons mapped to meet their State Standards. We aren’t free, but you will get more than what you paid for – confident writing teachers and strong student writers.