WANTED: Highly-qualified teacher to implement district purchased curriculum. Must attend trainings. Must follow pacing guide. Must give students consumables. Must move quickly. Must ignore reteaching. Must trust the model. Must regularly update online assessment collection tool. Must share results with building data team. Must not question the process.
I had completely forgotten the existence of this wanted ad when I clicked on the email attachment with excitement, nervous about the courses I would teach in the fall. I’d requested Sophomores and AP Language. Four sections of Sophomores glowed on the screen. That meant I’d have roughly 120 fifteen year olds to guide through the themes of Sophomore year. I love 10th graders because they sort of know how to play high school. They think they are better than the freshmen. They consistently under or over-estimate how much time it actually takes to accomplish an academic task.
They think they know everything.
This is the year that many high school students transition from thinking about themselves to thinking about others. Throughout the nation, tenth graders are learning to “think globally”. Sophomore year a student could read texts like Siddhartha, Things Fall Apart, and Macbeth. They learn about the cellular makeup of the world in Biology, discover that Geometry is simply argumentative writing with numbers, and explore how civilizations rose and fell through World History.
Following the lead of others, my own district adopted Springboard, a College Board developed, Common Core aligned, “culturally responsive” curriculum that prepares students for rigorous, Advanced Placement courses. I was certainly excited about these qualities when I attended the district workshop last year. Nonetheless, after five months of implementation what I’ve found is that this curriculum—much like most outsourced programming—is problematic. Instead of concentrating this post on an analysis of the issues, I want to emphasize what teaching Springboard curriculum has illuminated for me.
My classroom isn’t more rigorous, engaged, or common core aligned because of Springboard—those qualities already existed. What Springboard has done is remind me that teachers still need the flexibility and autonomy to modify any curriculum to meet the needs of the diverse students in their classrooms.
Furthermore, the following is more true now than ever:
- Students need their classroom teachers to pre-assess their knowledge.
- Students need their classroom teachers to develop engaging hooks.
- Students need their classroom teachers to differentiate learning tasks.
- Students need their classroom teachers to scaffold complex readings.
- Students need their classroom teachers to create a safe place for all learners.
- Students need their classroom teachers to not be “good soldiers” rotely teaching curriculum developed by someone many states away from their school.
- Students need their classroom teachers to advocate for them when policies don’t.