Professional Development Opinion

Learning Doesn’t Happen From a Textbook, It Develops With Relationships

By Starr Sackstein — November 05, 2018 3 min read
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Curriculum is much richer when it is prepared for those who sit before us now. Although having a curriculum map is necessary for pacing and benchmarks in terms of standards and growth, the actual day-to-day instruction can’t be left to a textbook or even just a map.

As soon as we attach ourselves to a particular text, we are promoting the ideas and skills that someone else has determined were most important. They don’t necessarily consider the needs of our classrooms, only the content that must be conveyed.

And content or skills is never enough to be successful in a classroom.

Each child in our learning spaces has a story. There are learning strengths and challenges to be highlighted and developed. It is our job as students’ teachers to find their strengths and play to them, building confidence as they venture into the skill-building and content areas of less proficiency.

In the assessment- and accountability-heavy world we live in right now, it is imperative for us to fight the urge to do what is easy; purchasing the textbook of the test-maker and following it with fidelity.

Students need an immersive experience that inspires and challenges their beliefs and empowers them beyond our current expectations. It is our duty to encourage their inquiry and curiosity and then follow the path that leads them.

It is certainly scary to not have an answer key when you walk into a classroom because we learn early on that the teacher needs to know the right answer, but this is folly usually discovered well into a teaching career. The early-career teacher wants to be prepared and knowledgeable, but that doesn’t have to look the way it always has.

Our classrooms need to be what our students imagine and dream. We must diligently be their guide and approach each learning experience as an opportunity to get them one step or several steps closer to the goals and aspirations they have created for themselves.

The content we teach is a living thing. With each year we mature in the classroom or leadership, we must grow and adjust with the times we are working in, taking what we have learned from the past and modeling how to apply current learning with what came before.

When considering what texts to use in our classrooms we should:

  • Look at current research and ask ourselves how the text challenges the reader to think about possibilities and changes in a particular field.
  • Consider the interests of our current students and imagine them reading the text and think about what they will take away from it. How will it enrich their learning? How will it challenge their thinking?
  • Ask yourself, “Why should this be something we read?”
  • Ask yourself, “Will this text endure and why?”
  • Think about your students and how can you involve what you know about them in your choices?
  • How can students contribute to your choices? Can you co-curate together? What would that look like?

We all deserve an opportunity to continue to grow. Although textbooks are an easy solution to finding something to teach now, they don’t solve a more enduring challenge of figuring out how to expose students to all the content that the textbooks don’t deem as important.

Additionally, even great works of literature that are worth reading shouldn’t be the only texts we expose students to. We need to evolve and consider new texts to bring before our students, new texts to inspire ourselves with.

The longer we teach, the more important it is that we push and continue to challenge ourselves and our students so we can make a difference.

How do you determine which texts and what content to teach your students within the expectations of your school or state’s expectations? Please share your experiences.

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