Standard A: Plans Curriculum and Instruction
Draws on content standards of the relevant curriculum frameworks to plan sequential units of study, individual lessons, and learning activities that make learning cumulative and advance students' level of content knowledge.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” This quote, by William Arthur Ward, explains the difference that a teacher needs to understand, especially today, when going into the education field. With such high expectations, and extremely strict curriculum standards, the spark of teaching can easily be lost or placed on the backburner.
This was one of my fears going into education, losing the ability to teach while just reading from the curriculum books given to you. Of course, this is one of the biggest struggles teachers have been facing, especially with the transition to the Core Curriculum and MCAS always “breathing down your back”. I believe there is a way to find the balance between meeting every framework in place, while also keeping your spark and having your own twist on the curriculum.
When it comes to Boston Public Schools, you are given both math and reading curriculum to teach. Typically all classrooms use “Investigations” for math and “Reading Street” for reading and phonics, but if you are a teacher in an SEI classroom and your students fall in the WIDA ELD levels, you are expected to teach the reading program “Reach”, a more appropriate curriculum for English Language Learners on the lower ELD scale. Between the purchased curriculums in place at each Boston Public School and the Common Core Curriculum in place nationally, teachers have to follow a strictly structured curriculum guide throughout the year. It is how you present the materials, which additional readings you choose to go along with the curriculum, and how you make small adaptations to each lesson that will make you a successful teacher.
In any school setting, teachers will find that they will not have students all at the same level, but I plan on using the techniques I have learned from my previous teachers, along with all the teachers I have observed and worked closely with, to make sure that every student succeeds. The best thing I have learned from my supervising teacher is that most teachers tend to dumb down the materials, instead of simply presenting the materials in a way in which they can understand. Students need to at least be presented all materials so they are at least familiar with it when they move on to the next grade level. By not reducing the materials, you show the students they you believe they can learn and you believe they are capable of learning all the materials. There is of course a balance between motivating and then pushing too hard to the point where the students will back away, but if the teacher is checking in with each student, they should be able to provide additional assistance when needed.
I plan on using reading groups and writing centers to provide the most assistance to each student. This requires a lot of time and effort, on top of pre-tests to find out where each student falls for reading and writing, but I have seen this work significantly for students of all levels. I also plan on always having manipulatives available for students to use on their own will to aide their learning whenever they feel necessary. Additionally, I believe it is important to use technology and the media in your classrooms, but I have yet to see this be utilized in the Boston Public Schools. When I observed in a few suburb schools, I saw students using computers for additional math, reading and phonics, and writing support. I believe educational games, with a sever stress on the word educational, forces the students to understand the concept they are learning in the curriculum. This additional support is fun for the students, and allows them to step more into their own comfort zone, since the younger generations typically are more technologically savvy than ever before.
Overall, I believe that even with the strictly enforced curriculum, teachers can and must adapt their lessons to provide an outlet for every student to succeed. Each year will be different, as each year the students will have different needs and learning styles, but with the support of colleagues and the easy access to many teaching modules and resources on the Internet, teaching can and should still be interesting and fun. If you can teach in a way that engages and involves all students so you do not simply “tell” the curriculum but explains, demonstrates, and inspires the students, then you have gone above what is simply expected of you, allowing the students to truly succeed.