Thursday, July 2, 2009

Doing Someone Else's Job

This post could also be called "How Much I Dislike My Curriculum" or "Why I Really Should Teach Social Studies."

Some people hate textbooks. Some people rely too heavily on textbooks.

I don't fall into either of those categories, which seems to make planning more difficult.

If I hated textbooks in general, then creating my own hodge-podge curriculum would be the unquestionably normal thing to do. If I relied heavily on the district-chosen curriculum, I wouldn't really have to plan anything, because I could just put little post-its on the resources I wanted to use and start photocopying away.

Oh, no, either of those would be too straightfoward. Instead, being somewhere in the middle, I'm scouring the district curriculum (which is really neither worthwhile nor appropriate for our demographics) for useful items and ideas, searching the web and my endless teacher-type books for the rest, and trying to sequence it and make it all fit together so that my kids will learn what they need without wasting time.

Right now, I'm working on the grammar component. It doesn't help that the district-chosen grammar book is a great waste of trees and ink!

For example, the state standard says, "Use subordination, coordination, apposition, and other devices to indicate clearly the relationship between ideas" (ELA Content Standards page 53). So, I break out the little handbooks, look up the handy index, and what do I find? Half a page of complicated explanation, basically saying that subordination is creating a subordinate clause out of the less important idea.

Thanks for that.

My kids already understand subordinate clauses, but they couldn't begin to comprehend your wordy, incoherent ramblings! Okay, so where do kids practice this device? Oh, what, they don't? This non-explanation is everything you're giving me? Jolly! That means that I get to use my (unpaid) summer planning sessions to create practice opportunities for them. Don't forget, that's just one of many standards.

That's okay, I don't mind volunteering 8 weeks every year to create curriculum, even though you've already paid the textbook company for these worthless space-wasters we call handbooks.

So what's in the rest of the book? Five hundred pages of mostly useless exercises, trivial grammar rules, and unreadable explanations. I'll end up using 3 or 4 of the 19 chapters. As for the rest...well, I now understand why most of this 8-year-old book looks so new!

Now, I'm not reinventing the wheel here. If this job were already done (as it is in the most-fabulous TCi Social Studies program), I'd happily take a Kathy Reichs book down to the pool without feeling any guilt.

1 comment:

  1. I am in the middle, too. I paraphrase chapters in textbooks, resulting in packets with corresponding questions (heaven forbid if they aren't assessed!) to make them understandable. The last two years, I was smarter than I normally am, however. When I made up a science unit, or an activity sheet, I tossed it in a tub just large enough to hold 8 1/2 x 11" sheets of paper. By the end of this past year, I had the tub (2 feet high, I guess)crammed to the top with stuff. I figured, why keep reinventing the wheel? Now, if only I would take the time to organize all that stuff...