Unless you’ve taught in a classroom, you really have no idea what teachers do and how they work. And yet, teaching is one of the only professions where it’s somehow OK for non-teachers to tell teachers how to do their jobs. So, you can only imagine how I felt when I heard about Senate Bill 1058 in Arizona. If you haven’t heard about this, and you aren’t sitting down, take a seat and a few deep breaths. The gist? Teachers could be required to upload their entire curriculum for the year before school even starts. Let’s respect teachers and stop telling them how to do their jobs. Not only is this unrealistic and a waste of time, it’s not going to work, and here’s why.
You can’t plan for students you haven’t met yet
The summer I landed my first teaching job, I was over the moon. I couldn’t wait to start planning. I spent the summer writing lesson plans, gathering materials, and planning routines and procedures. Oh, what a rookie mistake! When school started, I quickly realized that everything I planned took much longer than I thought it would. And my students weren’t ready for a lot of it. I ended up scrapping most of my plans rather than pushing them forward. I learned a powerful lesson that even though I was teaching eighth grade English, my students were all at very different places with the topics and skills in the curriculum. We can’t use the same curriculum with no changes or modifications year after year. This bill is prioritizing the curriculum over the kids, and I’m not OK with that.
Teachers differentiate and personalize instruction
This is what I want every non-teacher to know. Teachers don’t show up at school, stand in front of the room, and teach the same lesson over and over again. When you teach, you have a plan, but you know that you’ll make in-the-moment adjustments. This is why teaching is so challenging and so rewarding. It’s also why we need to stop telling teachers how to do their jobs. Unless you are the teacher, you don’t know what’s best for the kids in that room. It takes several months to really get to know the kids, to pre-assess what they know, and determine what they still need to learn. If we have to plan all of our lessons in advance and submit them before school even starts, we are wasting teachers’ time. Plus, families are previewing materials we will likely need to change in order to teach their kids best.
Teachers plan with the end in mind, not the beginning
Teachers spend a lot of time mastering the art and science of planning. We’re trained to start with the end in mind, so it is laughable to me that teachers would submit their lesson plans for an entire year. That isn’t even how we plan in the first place! When you start with the end in mind, you have high expectations and rigor. You know where you want your kids to be by the end of the year. You craft learning objectives and use the standards to create a scope and sequence that will help you stay grounded as you make changes and adjustments based on your formative and summative assessments. To ask a teacher to design a learning experience based on the months in the year goes against everything we are trained to do.
Engagement is higher when curriculum is a conversation
I used to say this to my kids all the time. Look, I know what skills and topics I want to teach you, but how we get there is up to us. Curriculum is a conversation. When I found out that my students loved Taylor Swift’s music, I used the lyrics to teach them figurative language. Did I know that I was going to do that in August? No. This is why we have standards and learning objectives. Sure, let’s share the skills and topics we are going to teach. In fact, just look up your state standards or the Common Core. But when it comes to the details like the books we choose or the videos we create or the games we play, that is a decision we make in the moment and can’t always plan for.
Teachers don’t need to be micromanaged
Teaching is the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I worked hard to become a teacher. If I needed guidance or had questions about how to do my job, I asked the teacher down the hall. And while I fully agree that parent-teacher collaboration is important, and when we work together, we can really help our kids succeed, I don’t think that teachers need to be micromanaged or told how to do their jobs by people who have never taught or aren’t trained teachers. So I vote no for Senate Bill 1058. It’s time to start respecting teachers and stop telling them how to do their jobs. And if we do want to rethink education policy, how about we ask a teacher before we craft a policy that will actually do more harm than good for our kids’ education? Now that’s something I’d vote yes for.
Do you think we need to stop telling teachers how to do their jobs? What do you think? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.