Friday, October 14, 2011

Year 2: Week 6 - Throwing Out The Curriculum

I do my lesson planning on a large table in a google doc. There’s a row in which I list the topics and activities for each week of class I teach and then below it I fill in the sequence for each individual class. I have the topics and activities listed for each week all the way until Winter break I completed before school started and the plan for the individual classes I usually do the weekend before.

It’s nice to have a plan to work with so you have an idea of where things are headed, how to work up to certain performances and what sequence week to week you are teaching certain topics. But the bottom line is that the most intricate of lesson plans don’t guarantee success.

Students are unpredictable. They come into the classroom with different emotions and situations. I mean there’s no way that my third grade class that comes to me first thing in the morning is going to behave like the third grade class that I see at the very end of the day. I try to keep these two classes on the same page but with the different energy these classes bring, sometimes I just have to put aside my lesson plans and find something that works.

If teaching was simply making lesson plans and teaching according to that plan than this job would be a piece of cake. Rarely do students receive my best laid lesson plans the way that I expect and sometimes I find myself fighting to get students through lessons and activities that I feel are important. Is this really necessary? Is it worth the frustration and discipline problems that come with a lack of student interest?

Well, you may be thinking that since I’m a music teacher I can just do things that kids like. That’s not what I’m talking about. This is the idea of a math teacher using Legos to teach geometry because he or she has a very hands on class or an English teacher having students act out skits to describe plots instead of writing reports to makes students become involved in the literature they are reading.

This is about being a responsive teacher.

There’s nothing wrong with using hooks, meeting kids where they are to get them involved and invested in learning. In fact, that approach is everything that is right about teaching and education.

It saddens me to talk to teachers who are evaluated as teachers by whether they are teaching the correct page out of the textbook according to the district created scope and sequence. This takes away the teacher’s freedom to really teach to the students and take the time to involve them in a meaningful way.

Is it frustrating to have to rethink my curriculum every weekend because things don’t go as planned? Yes, but I’d rather do new and exciting things for my students that makes learning an active and enjoyable experience rather then just shove topics down their throat.

Teaching is not about communicating a curriculum; it’s about teaching students.

So next time you have a class that isn't going well, don't be afraid to try something crazy that you think may get your kids involved, even if it's not part of your curriculum.  You may find these moments create some of the greatest lessons you may ever teach.

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