Not too long ago I tweeted the following:
“It’s powerful when we shift the conversation from ‘What lesson are you on?’ to ‘What are your students learning?’”
It's powerful when we shift the conversation from “What lesson are you on?” to “What are your students learning?”
— Ross Cooper (@RossCoops31) April 1, 2018
This tweet was motivated by a conversation I witnessed, during which a principal from another district said something to the effect of, “I’m working with my teachers to understand that it’s ok for students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways, but we’re struggling.”
Although I still don’t know the entire context of this particular issue, I can say with confidence that a similar problem exists across countless schools and districts.
So let’s unpack it.
One of the Many Problems with How Textbooks Are Used
From what I have experienced, the majority of teachers still rely on a textbook when determining what to teach. And, if the principal’s problem is present, there’s an even greater likelihood the textbook is being used as a crutch, with teachers spending the year going through the textbook from cover to cover (more or less). This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with the actual book itself; the problem lies in how it is used.
The first warning sign is when the textbook is referred to as the curriculum, when in reality it’s a tool or resource that can help us to meet the needs of our students. And, if we’re treating the textbook as the curriculum, I’m more inclined to point the finger at the administrator (curriculum supervisor, principal, etc.) who is allowing for such abuse to take place.
So, if I’m a teacher heavily relying on my textbook, without the proper professional development to “move away from it,” I too would be baffled by someone telling me, “Teach Chapter 2 in a different way!” or, “Let your students show they understand Unit 7 however they want!”
At least three major steps are required for a paradigm shift to take place.