When I was in school, the general impression that I understood from my professors was that a textbook is considered the “curriculum.” However, we were not taught that we have to follow the textbook verbatim. We could integrate additional activities if we wanted or felt that we needed. I remember in my middle school math pedagogy course, I was asked to create a binder full of additional “activities” that could be used in the classroom. I spent hours indexing, researching, and analyzing these activities. The original intention was that this binder would be a starting point for us as we began our practice in the classroom. However, the way that I understood implementing these activities was that if I was teaching about solving systems of equations, I would insert this activity at the beginning of the end of the lesson. I could also use it as a review before a quiz or test.
While I understand that ultimately the “curriculum” is what is actually done in the classroom and does not need to be dictated by the textbook that the school decides to purchase, as a practitioner am unsure or fearful of not following a book. I worry that I will place too much importance on a particular skill or miss something else that is important. However, when I use the book as a safety net, I am less likely to fail.
This year, as I begin a new adventure in my career at a new school (for me), I am working to move away from using the book as the safety net. I have begun to think about the book more as a resource for problems that my students can use for practice or for me to use as examples. I am more encouraged to avoid following the book section by section. This year, I will be following the state standards and using them to determine what content to cover next. I will pull information from different parts of the book and have students work on those topics and not feel the need to progress from 1.1 to 1.2 to 1.3 etc.
Why this sudden surge of confidence from me? As I mentioned, I am at a new school. I am not restricted to keeping my students on a similar routine as what they had used the previous year. I have a clean slate. I have considered this previously, but when I have spoken with my administrators, they have sounded reluctant. This year, when I spoke with the woman who had the position last year, she described this as the way that she planed her lessons. I am encouraged and excited to begin working more specifically on teaching the standards. I am excited to see the growth that my students have over the course of the next nine months!