Friday, October 4, 2013

Year 4: Week 5 – In Defense Of Textbooks

Not all teachers are created equal. Some teachers like myself would prefer to write their own curriculum and create their own teaching materials and assessments. Some teachers would rather teach out of a text book. Is one approach innately better than the other?

Some people argue that teachers should be creating their own materials, but this ignores the reality of teaching in many school districts and communities.

I was taught in college that teaching was all about creating innovated curriculum.  I really enjoyed doing this, however, I learned the hard way my first year as a teacher that I simply didn't have time to create everything from scratch. The hours I could have saved using materials readily available and created by other educators would have allowed me to focus on the many issues I struggled with at that job that eventually led to me not having my contract renewed after my second year.

As I started my next job as a special education assistant, I still held onto idea that I wanted to create my own material. So I was pretty shocked when I learned that I would be teaching small group reading and math not only out of textbook but also by following the script. I'm not talking about a suggested way of asking questions in a teachers guide, I'm talking about a word for word script.

I initially thought this was ridiculous until I started working with this program. I was teaching math and reading to students who had various developmental issues and one of the strategies was repetition. For example, it was important that a student spoke a short "a" sound a certain amount of times. The script allowed me to not have to sit there and count how many times they read a word or did a math problem. Instead I could focus on their understanding, their focus and assessing their progress.

Keep in mind, I was trained as a music teacher so these programs allowed me to teach these other subjects, I hadn't studied. It was a scripted reading program that helped me teach a kid how to read. That's one of my biggest accomplishments as a teacher, and I still get teary-eyed remembering him read to me at the end of the school year a book he couldn't read at all that previous September.

I've met remarkable teachers who create their own curriculum and amazing educators who teach out of a text book. Like most teachers I'm somewhere in-between. If I had the time, I'd create all of my own stuff, but it's not realistic and while I enjoy academic research, the time I save using other peoples' materials is better focused on getting to know my students.

There's a disdain that some educators associate using textbooks to government education standards, to standardized tests, to NCLB and finally to the downfall of American education by turning teachers into robots. And no, I don't think that it's okay for principals to evaluate teachers strictly on their adherence to a textbook. Also, I don't think a teacher should stay 100% with a textbook, that is simply not a responsive way to serve students.

So if you aren't using a lot of stuff from textbooks, check them out. There's a lot of great stuff out there that will give you some awesome material and perspectives on different ways to teach. Don't work so hard.

And if you have a textbook that you are forced to use, think of it more as framework to build off of than a cage. In this way, the possibilities are limitless.

No comments:

Post a Comment