Don’t fit the mold

I will start this post by clarifying what you may have already gathered: I do still exist! I’ve been really caught up in taking a load off this summer. This is my first summer where things are “staying the same,” meaning that we’re not moving, I have no big trips planned, I’m not trying to redo everything, and I’m really trying to focus on relaxing and not thinking about school with every waking moment. Conclusion? It’s been going really well.

This summer I’m trying to update my curriculum, from all the tips and tricks I learned at #CampMusicuentos in June. It’s been a little rough, because not only am I reading The Keys to Planning for Learning, but I’m working with basically nothing except the outline of a former textbook. What I mean by that is: I’m not sure if my school has a set curriculum. I mention this, not to shame my school (I really do love it there) or to make myself sound impressive, but because I know there are TONS of young teachers in this position. My first year of teaching could have gone much more smoothly if I would have ASKED for our curriculum before school started. Now that I’m entering my second year at my new school, I’d feel silly asking about curriculum without raising questions like, “what exactly were you doing last year?” (Answer: “my best”)

I finally feel like I’m in a place to do some actual curriculum mapping and planning this summer. You might not feel like you’re in the place. Use an already set curriculum, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that! This brings me around to the point that I’m trying to make here:

Don’t attempt to fit a mold that someone “who knows what they’re doing” laid out for you.

What I mean by that is that there is a FINE line when you’re using someone else’s resources. I am ALL for “not reinventing the wheel,” “working smarter, not harder,” and “sharing is caring.” I am constantly reminded that teachers (especially us young ones) might not have the time, experience, or resources to write curriculum by ourselves. Heck, up until this year, I clung to the Jefferson County Public Schools curriculum tighter than I’ve ever clung to a textbook. But there’s a danger here, and that danger is losing who you are as a teacher.

Case in point: I looked at other teacher’s successes (JCPS/The Creative Language Class, Shelby County, etc) and thought “if they are successful, all I have to do is do exactly what they do, and I will also be successful.” WRONG. Even this school year, I had another French teacher to plan with for the first time. I spent a lot of the year trying to be more like her. Why wouldn’t I want to? She’s got tons of experience, stays relevant, tries new things, and is a good teacher! Of course I would want to emulate her and her practices. In the past, I spent so much time trying to do exactly what JCPS outlined that my teaching suffered. My students suffered. My mental health suffered.

You’re not meant to be someone else, no matter how great they are. I can’t shove myself into a colleague-shaped box. I can’t fit inside the crime scene-style chalk outline of anyone else. I can’t force myself into a curriculum that might not be right for my student population.

Did you know that the JCPS curriculum caught some flak for some of the units that they did? As far as I know, it was a curriculum compromise to include things like the “have a good day” unit. I didn’t know that until this year. I just assumed that they were the be all end all of curriculum! And it’s GOOD, regardless of these facts. Knowing this puts it into perspective that not one element contributes to your success as a teacher. A lot of it rides on you, your personality, your management, and so much more. So this year, my goal is to not lose myself in the quest for “better.”

I hope that your goal, while picking and choosing resources to help further your students towards their targets, is to remember who you are along the way. You were hired by your district for your expertise, your personality, your attitude, and your ability to do your job. Don’t let the promise of success with any one curriculum, method, or style tear you away from the great things that you bring to the table as an individual.

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