The bees are angry, and ready to swarm. At this week’s second PLC, a “Common Core Aligned Unit Template” was introduced to all teachers. It’s one of those things that an over eager graduate student might produce, or perhaps someone from district or D0E with too much time on their hands and a fat paycheck to justify. Whoever authored it, though, is surely someone who has spent little to no time as a classroom teacher. Of that, we are certain.
First of all, a refresher as to what constitutes a “unit” in the planning of instruction. A unit should not be confused with a lesson. A unit is a collection of lessons on a particular topic. For example, a unit of fractions might include lessons on “learning fractional parts”, “comparing fractions”, “ordering fractions on a number line”, “adding fractions with like denominators”, “subtracting fractions with like denominators”, and so on. A unit of instruction may take about a month to complete.
Back to the template. The template itself is 5 pages long, with “spaces” for answers to questions about some specifics of the unit, but also, how instruction will be delivered to a diverse student group, and assessed. Sounds reasonable, right? Let me share with you just one of the questions on this Common Core Aligned Unit Template:
Relevance/ Rationale/ Essential Questions: Why are the outcomes of this unit important in the real world? Why are these outcomes essential for future learning? What are the essential questions the students will need to be able to answer? What are the differing levels of questions that you will use for students to answer?
Yes, this is just one of the questions on the 5 page, 8 question and reflection guide template. How would one adequately answer this question? How much time would be required to do so? I’m usually not one to respond superficially, and anticipate this to take a lot more than the three and a half inch space below it. But of course, this is a template so I am not limited to three and a half inches. I recently completed a unit with my students that had thirteen essential questions. (And that is just one part of the four part question) Consider, too, that I teach 7 different units to two different levels throughout the year. Imagine the length of just one completed document; of a year’s worth.
And, really, who would read it anyway?
The Essential Question here is “What is the purpose for this type of curriculum reconstruction by those on the front lines?” I don’t disagree about the significance of the question, but I do disagree with where this work should take place.
This is work for the curriculum specialists, the curriculum designers, not the classroom teacher. This is what the folks making the big bucks at the district office or DoE should be doing. This is heavy, thoughty, time consuming stuff. Stuff that should be delivered to those engaged to teach. If teacher input is valued, schedule a summer institute and pay teachers to build the curriculum. After all, the teacher must plan the lessons, gather materials, create materials, differentiate for individual needs, teach, assess learning, reteach when necessary, confer with students, confer with parents, record parent conferences, record progress, copy, administer, grade, and record the state Measure B tests, copy, administer, assess and record district benchmarks, attend IEP and 504 meetings, complete FBA forms, complete student collateral forms, complete questionnaires from students’ physicians, teach STEM lessons, grade STEM projects, prepare work to be completed for suspended and sick students, prepare DPAS documents, perform hall and bus duty, and yes, attend PLC meetings during what once was planning time. This list is not complete, nor does it include the occasional blog posting.
We’re angry, state and district officials. Angry that you choose to pour resources into developing busy work like this for already burdened teachers rather than investing in smaller class sizes, increased planning time (No lectures, please. Just planning.), and the critically needed services for our most disadvantaged students. We’re angry too, because we know why you do it. You take the onus off yourselves for reform, for rigor, and meeting diverse needs, and place it on the “workers”. You do it because it’s easier. Easier for YOU.