Allow me a few mins to dust the cobs webs off and get rid rid of all these bugs that have accumulated on this blog from years of not posting.
Don’t call it a comeback….
I’ve been here these past years……
I just haven’t had much time to sit down and write about the ideas floating around in my head. I’ve been busy learning about this new journey I so luckily got to be a part of.
I am a part of the amazing team that wrote the Illustrative Mathematics middle school curriculum for Open Up Resources. I am not going to lie (cuz when do I ever not say the thing??) but there is no way I would’ve guessed that after 11 years working for the Hawaii Dept of Education, I would be writing curriculum.
And not just any curriculum!
Curriculum with a cause!
However, this post is not about the curriculum itself. This post is about my view of curriculum in general and how it has evolved over the past few years and especially now after my experience behind the scenes of the writing game.
Let’s take a trip back in time….to the first few years of my teaching career. I was HORRIBLE!! I mean who isn’t their first year??? I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it as a teacher. But then I grew, got a smidge better. Had a class or 2 that changed my life yaddah yaddah!
During that time, I never had a textbook, curriculum or any real resources until I was first introduced to the Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP). It was nothing like I’d ever seen. After 4 years of making stuff up and having my students do activities in a way that I thought made sense, I get exposed to this curriculum that has a very open feel to it. Long story short, for the journey my school was on this curriculum didn’t serve it’s purpose. However, the exposure to a resource that I could use as a teacher and not have to focus on creating stuff that meets standards, engages students, you know all that jazz, was kind of rad! I didn’t have to create content from scratch AND put time into mapping out my teacher moves. Instead I could really focus on students’ learning, meeting their needs better and the teacher moves that are a crucial component to learning in the classroom.
Fast forward to a few years after the intro to IMP and I am back to creating content: lessons, homework, all that stuff!
Note: I am not complaining here, just pointing out that I had this extra burden on my shoulders.
During this time, I had various resources I used, random texts, blog posts, etc. But never did I find any text or curriculum that I felt met the teaching philosophy I had in my head and emanated throughout my classroom. Pretty much every text I encountered looked like a replica of what I experienced as a student and that is DEF insufficient.
At this time, I didn’t get the whole curriculum thing. I was like curriculum schmiculum, my students are FINE, they are learning and every thing is fine! You could say I didn’t really believe in this so called “curriculum thing”.
Fast forward to a few months ago….I had been working on this curriculum project for almost a year, learning lots of things about math and teaching. But I could say that I was still on the fence about this whole curriculum thing. The best way to put it would be…yeah so here is great curriculum that I wrote but ask me if I’d 100% use it…?????? (shhhhhh don’t tell K8!)
However, as I was helping my coworker pick student work for a professional development, I had to go back to read through a lesson to understand what student strategies we were looking for in this student work. As I am reading through this lesson
IT FINALLY HITS ME! HOLEY MOLEY!!!!
When you have quality curriculum like this you can spend way more time focusing on the moves you make with students to support their learning!!! soooooo wait….WHAAATT!!????
My brain had to pause for a second…..
What I came to realize at this moment was that good curriculum, curriculum that does a lot of the heavy lifting in math content, coherence and some teacher moves (5 practices) allows the teacher to re prioritize the work they need to do in order to support quality learning.
I was astounded by this and realized at this point that for years I had this mentality that I had to do all the work (mostly cuz nothing was good enough) however when there is good curriculum involved the work I put in gets more focused on important things like: what questions should I ask to get Xavier to make connections to today’s lesson (or previous/future lessons), how can I reach all these students in their classroom, how do I teach all these different learners at the same time!
I realized at this moment that a big piece to this puzzle is good materials that allows teachers to practice their craft and allows them to build a classroom environment that engages students in thinking, looking for patterns, making sense of the math around them and have them really engage in math itself. Not materials that tells students what to do and have them go through the motions 100 times after they “learned” it.
My next natural reaction was….Ok I am ready to go back to the classroom now! Which you might know I have been waiting for a few years to do. No such luck on this yet.
However, I feel as though I am looking at teaching through a whole new lens. A lens that focuses on the craft and art of teaching. No not the book. But instead a lens where the complexity of this profession is opened up and looked at to see what areas we can better support teachers with. Where can we help lighten the load so that teachers can shift their focus to these moves that determine quality learning for ALL students. Where teachers can fine tune that craft of teaching. Focus more on pedagogy and can leave the task of curriculum writing to those that have the time to sit with content for days, weeks, and months on end thinking about ways to teach a concept and interweave it into all the other learning throughout the year. I’ve learned through this past year and a half that writing curriculum is a full-time job. Teaching the future of the world is also a full-time job. And both of these are equally important to change the way humans view math in the world around us.