Anyone who knows me knows what my favorite ‘F’ word is. I say it a lot! But this time I’m talking about the Other ‘F’ Word: FIDELITY to the Curriculum. How many times have teachers heard this in staff meetings, PD, newsletters, or collaboration? I know I have heard it A LOT the last few years. And it makes me want to hurt someone.
And here we are living in a very different world than we were just a week ago. California schools are not in regular session, we are all hunkering down in our homes, and districts are scrambling to figure out what to do and how. You know what I haven’t heard? “Fidelity to the Curriculum’. That has been a nice change.
I have seen teachers mobilize, create and share resources, and rise to the occasion. I have been actively brushing up on apps, watching my feeds for ideas, and listening to others. I am amazed at how awesome teachers truly are. One thing I haven’t heard is ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’. And you know what is happening? Awesome things. Creative things. Inspiring things. Innovative things. Teachers are AMAZEBALLZ! Yeah, with a Z!
What can the education world: nation, state, county, districts learn from this?
Get out of our way! We don’t need curriculums. We got this! We don’t need you to micromanage every minute of our day. We know what we are doing. We are better together. We have banned together to create great things for our kiddos. WE are getting it done. WE are leading the way. What can the education world learn? Teachers will lead. Teachers will get it done. Teachers wait for NO company.
Get out of our way and let us teach!
We have proven to be the leaders in this. We can’t forget the companies that have stepped up to help us out. Although, I am giving them the side-eye. They’re like the crack dealer getting you hooked then wanting money. I haven’t seen one curriculum company step up. I’m sure the testing companies are sad not to tell us how much we, as teachers, suck. We, the teachers, got this. Get out of our way!
So what will this look like in a year from now? My biggest hope is that real education reform will happen. We will change how we deliver content to students. I’m not talking about distance learning. I don’t think it would work well in my community. What I’m saying is that we will move away from ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’ and more to creativity and teacher autonomy. Can you imagine teachers working together to create innovative and exciting lessons? That’s what’s happening now! It’s across districts, counties, and states. I really want districts, counties, and states to take note and make changes.
Believe in your teachers! We are proving day after day that ‘we got this’. We don’t need no stinkin’ curriculum.
This year I began using ‘Classroom Economy’. The students have jobs, earn money, and rent or buy their desks. Students have several opportunities to earn extra money. This is important because their monthly paychecks are less than their rent ($1000).
One way they can earn extra money is to solve math problems. I post two problems for anyone in the class to solve. I will only take the first correct answer. One is generally more difficult than the other thus allowing students to challenge themselves. The harder problem will earn them $50 while the easier one will earn them $20.
I was able to snap this photo of a student, who NEVER passes up the opportunity to make extra money, practicing the skills that she has learned. Added bonus, we leave the process a student takes on the board for all to see and learn from.
I don’t normally write about my personal struggles here. Struggles in the classroom, sure. My personal life, not so much. As my grandfather used to say, “No sense in complaining, no one wants to hear about it.” However, I have talked with several educators who have similar thoughts/feelings to varying degrees.
So, here it is. My job might be killing me. It’s definitely making me sad, depressed, anxious, worthless, and invisible. Not everything is specific to my site or even my district. Things like ‘the test’, ‘preparing for the test’, advancing students – whether it’s EL’s, those in reading, those in math, whatever. It’s all becoming too much. Notice, nowhere in my list did I mention that students were the issue. My students and I have a comfortable routine and a great relationship.
“Fidelity to the curriculum”, “innovation”, “assess”, “you don’t have a ‘can do’ attitude”, “fix your face”, “fill out these forms to have a meeting about your concerns”, “assess”, “analyze”, “reflect”, “assess” it’s all becoming too much for me. While all this may not be my personal experience, it is our experience as teachers. I have a pair of shoes that say “Do what you love” and “Love what you do”. I wear them to remind me that I love teaching when it’s just the kiddos and me. Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder and harder to remember this.
I’m struggling and I know I’m not the only one. Those that are making decisions are not doing so with the best interest, or even what’s right, for the students. It is taking a toll on those of us who are ‘the boots on the ground’. I could go into the ‘why’ behind it all, or at least what I perceive as the ‘why’ but there is plenty of reading out there that documents this. No need to beat a dead horse as they say. We can continue to point out the why but I would rather actual change start to occur.
So to any others who may happen to read this, know you are not alone. I don’t have any answers. I only know that I am one of those that are struggling right now. Hopefully, by writing it down I can release some of the crummy feelings I’m experiencing and get back to a happier place.
I realize that this word is very similar to last year’s, Do. At first, I was going to scrap RISK because of what I wrote. In short, I said that I would DO things outside of my comfort zone. Then, I realized that doing something outside your comfort zone is NOT the same as taking risks. Yes, when you step outside your comfort zone it is a risk. However, that’s not what I’m aiming for this year.
Let me explain. When I ‘do’ something it’s scary. And while risks can be scary, it’s not that scare the living daylights out of you, you might be completely insane for even attempting this. THAT is what I’m looking to do this next year.
Many know that my family had a rough year in 2019. We lost my aunt and uncle (married 50 years this year) and my aunt’s brother all within a four-month period. I was very close to my aunt and uncle. They were like second parents to me. They were my dad’s oldest and closest friends. So how does all that relate to risks? Everything! I can choose to do things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or I can choose to take risks. I don’t want to have just done things, I want to find out what the possibilities are if I just take a few risks.
One large risk I am looking at is leaving my current district after 22 years. An even bigger risk, I willing to relocate. Both those ideas scare the living daylights out of me! But instead of having that fear hold me back, I’m trying to look forward and think positively about it all. For anyone who really knows me, you know that I’m not a fan of change. Change is hard for me. One great example is what my district IT head did to me. Knowing that I hate change (most likely tipped off by my principal), he began an eight-month heads up campaign. Actually, it was more like a 10-month campaign. Very early on in the school year, he mentioned that my Apple computer, which I loved, would be taken at the end of the school year and the following year it would be replaced with a PC, which I’m no fan of. I love this story, because well, I got played. Kudos to him! The transition when handing me the PC was smooth. Honestly, he most likely did it to make his life easier. I knew it was coming and wouldn’t freak out. Either way, well played!
So, as you can see, I’m not a fan of change. That was just for a stinkin’ computer. Now, I’m looking at a change in districts and possibly town. THAT is a risk. I’m not saying I want to do crazy things on the reg, just a few more throughout the year.
Here it is, early July. I should be enjoying some well deserved time off, yet I can’t stop prepping, reading, researching, and thinking about how to make next school year even better. It doesn’t help that on many social media platforms, teachers are posting pictures of classrooms, libraries, and resources. Then, there are the ones that post about sales and purchasing items. This is where I get a bit uncomfortable.
I have been teaching for over 20 years so I know all too well the amount of money a teacher invests in their classroom. I was a beginning teacher who spent more money than I ever should have fixing up my classroom, investing in books, and supplies. No beginning teacher earns enough to do that, yet we buy these items.
More recently I have adopted the attitude of, “Naw.” As in, “Naw, I’m NOT buying pencils, notebooks, lined paper, folders, etc. for my classroom.” I have not moved schools or districts. I still teach in a Title 1 district.
So what changed? I changed; my attitude changed. Maybe I’m a bit more enlightened and less naive than I use to be. Trust me this is a new thing for me. I have students who can’t afford back to school supplies. I have students whose parents choose not to purchase supplies. I understand that it’s not the child’s fault. But, when did it become MY responsibility to purchase said supplies? If I have 30 students and purchase 2 folders per student (1 for classwork and 1 for homework/home communication) at a cost of $9.99 for a box of 25 (according to Office Depot), that means I need to purchase 3 boxes (I need 60 folders). That means I just spent $27.97 (plus tax) on my classroom out of MY OWN POCKET. What?! That wasn’t even for the ones with prongs. Then there are essentials like pencils, pencil sharpeners (that NEVER last), bulletin board border (gotta make the room look pretty), organizational tools, and other basics. Then if you want to do flexible seating in your classroom, most districts won’t pay for that so there’s more money out of your pocket (yep, did this one last year). Some of the costs might be minimal. I bought bed risers for raised desks for around $10. Not a big deal, right? Again, when did THIS become my problem?
Teachers, by nature, are generous and nurturing. The system has totally exploited our kindness and has, in some cases, come to expect that we will purchase what we need out of our own pockets. We need to STOP this! I know what you’re thinking: “Schools aren’t funded properly”, “My students can’t afford ____”. And you’re right. Schools aren’t funded properly. Many families can’t afford supplies. However, why should schools be funded properly when we continue to fill in the gaps? Why should schools offer to buy the folders when we happily do it and then feel great when we hit a sale (yeah, hitting a sale and saving money feels great, not gonna lie)? But we need to step back and realize that we are part of the problem.
So, I am trying VERY hard NOT to spend any money in my classroom this year. I will ask my site to purchase needed materials: folders, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. This is not going to be easy, but there really aren’t any other professions (we have bachelors and masters and doctorates; we ARE professionals) that spend their own money to make their environment better and successful. Yes, there are certain items that a professional, such as a nurse who buys her/his own stethoscope, but do they need to purchase paper, folders, pens? No. And neither should we.
I know this was a long rant and most likely not so popular, but I hope it made you think. Until we demand to be treated like professionals, we won’t be. Until we stand up for ourselves and demand districts spend their money on students rather than admin, buildings, etc. nothing will change. If you can’t pay your electric or heating bill will your district do that for you? Most likely not. So why do we pay for things that the district should be paying for?
NOTE: I am fortunate enough to have an administrator who will pay for the basics out of site funds. However, many are not as fortunate. This post was spurred by ALL THE SALES that I see being shared ‘for teachers’.
At some point last year at a Google Innovator event I was given one of these. I liked the idea of passing along a note to recognize kindness in others.
I recently ran across it again and incorporated it into my classroom. I introduced the idea to my students telling them that when they saw someone being kind, it could be passed along to that person.
Fortunately, my students have really taken to the idea. Each day I see this being placed on someone’s desk. I love that my students do it without making a big deal about it. At one point it was missing for a few days. One of the students asked where it was and what happened to it. I reminded them to keep it going and it showed back up later that day.
Yesterday, Friday, I had 5 students absent. When everyone is present, we have 26 students in our class. They are an awesome group of kiddos. I’m really enjoying them, but when I had 21 yesterday in class, it was so nice!
Let me explain. First of all, it had nothing to do with which students were absent. It had everything to do with the number of students physically present. I know 26 isn’t a bad number to have (last year I had 31 – THAT was too many). However, 21 students made it so much easier to squash undesired behaviors before the student had a chance to fully commit to the behavior. It allowed me to target individual needs more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, we had some name calling and general playing around but it was easier to manage.
So when school officials, politicians, or policymakers say that handling 31 is the same as handling 21, they clearly have either never been in the classroom (as a teacher) or have been out of it for far too long. There is a difference. I felt so much more productive and impactful than I have in a long time. I felt as if I really was making a difference and reaching all students.
If you are in a position to make a difference in your community, I urge you to do so. Go to school board meetings or talk to teachers. Because in the end, size really does matter!
And yes, I will be happy to see all 26 of them Monday morning!
I have decided that we should start a classroom podcast. I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to bring the real world to my classroom. Each year, my students become more and more consumed by their devices and apps. Most of what they do is consume, text, or snap; very little creation occurs. I want to help change this and show my students that you can produce more than just YouTube videos. They all want to be YouTubers…
So why Podcasting? Well, it’s not something most, or any, of my students are familiar with. They all know about YouTube, but there is so much more to the creative world than becoming a YouTuber. I began by having my students listen to a podcast: The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. Warning, this is addictive! This is a well-done podcast that the kids, and I, really got in to. I only had my kiddos listen to Season 1 – and bonus, we Sketchnoted each episode. However, I wanted to hear the rest and listened to it on my own. I was not disappointed!
After listening to Season 1 of Mars Patel, I proposed the idea to my class. They seemed up for it. We talked about what we could do. At first, they wanted to do one like that of Mars Patel, but I felt that might be too ambitious for our first go at it. I encouraged them to do stand-alone episodes. They came up with the idea of focusing on the history of our school and town. I was in!
As a class, we posed questions about our town and school that we could research and report out on. Now, I have a group of students who are taking one question at a time and doing the research. We have reached out to school and community leaders to interview. They will begin interviewing leaders soon. They already have questions ready for our school leaders for one episode.
I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing and am learning right along with my students. Once we publish an episode, I’ll share far and wide!
Another year means another word! This year I chose ‘Do‘. It seems simple enough but packed with so much meaning.
For me, this will help me to follow through and DO what I intend. I have a habit of becoming overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me. This leads to anxiety, which leads to me shutting down and ignoring everything. Yeah, that’s not working so well.
As they say, I’ll need a plan. I have one. I need to list my tasks (I hate writing things down) and prioritize. It will also include me DOing things that scare me and take me out of my comfort zone. The loss of control on that coupled with all the negative ‘what if’s’ generally keep me from taking drastic actions. I need to learn to trust that everything will work out -it always does.