Thursday, September 17, 2009

From My Cold Dead Hands

When I started teaching at the school at which I still work, my grade was brand-new to the school. In terms of curriculum, I was given two enormous binders, one from Teachers College and one from America's Choice, but it was stressed to me that they were only "suggestions" and "resources." I had no idea what to do with either of these binders, so I simply ignored them. When I made up the curriculum from scratch as I went along, no one seemed to mind.

I will admit, of course, that this is hardly an ideal way to do long-range planning. I was a newbie then--a real newbie--and I knew jack-squat about curriculum mapping and backwards planning and only slightly more about writing lesson plans. I learned, of course--I looked at sample curriculum maps online, worked with my colleagues, learned what students did in earlier grades at my school and what students did in my same grade at other schools.

Out of this process came the most treasured document in all of my great repository of lesson plans, memos, charts, journals, and cocktail napkins: My curriculum map. It is a thing of great beauty. It is organized by month and by week. It has been de-spiral-ized, meaning that I felt free to throw out the ubiquitous "poetry book" project because every other teacher in every other grade has made kids do poetry books, and by the time they get to my grade, they are well nigh sick of poetry books. It has been backwards-planned Grant Wiggins-style. It is aligned to state standards. It kicks not a small amount of ass. I love it, I refer to it constantly, I stick to it. Like Charlton Heston's gun, you could take my curriculum map away when you could pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Except...oh, how I fear the worst for my beautiful curriculum map. Its days are numbered. An informal chat with my principal today about an entirely unrelated subject led me to begin to fear for my curriculum map. I believe I am going to be forced into an unholy three-way marriage with the new "Core Curriculum" and its thematic units (thanks for all the notice and PD I didn't get on this, btw, DOE) and motherplucking Teachers College. If not this year--if, by some small holy chance, I can squeak through this year with my rich, deep, funky, unique curriculum intact--then most certainly next year.

Those of you who know that I'm a fan of Core Knowledge might be surprised to hear that I'm so resistant to a uniform curriculum. My response would be that I would buy into a Core Knowledge curriculum so fast it would make your head spin. But this TC nonsense that's about to get shoved down my throat? No thanks. I built a curriculum for my classes myself, from scratch, and as a result I know it intimately, believe in it, and can defend every single thing I teach. As they say, I have ownership of it.

I have no ownership in this nonsense. Already I have been told that I have to throw out one of my units entirely to make way for a TEST PREP UNIT in April, gag me with a machete. The thought of doing all test prep all the time for a month makes me want to quite literally cry, considering that April could have been spent doing some deep, serious literature.

If my curriculum map's days are numbered, I suspect that my own days are numbered as well. I don't mind following someone else's map as long as it's one I can believe in. But I can't believe in this. And I don't think my principal will understand, respect, or accommodate that even a little.