Elementary question

Discussion in 'Job Seekers' started by John Lee, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    I'm not sure which forum this belongs in, but I have a question as it relates to questions that tend to be asked on interviews, and the general elementary school curriculum as I've known it.

    Basically, the overall elementary curriculum consists of reading, writing, math, social studies &/or science. In each of these subjects, the curriculum is guided by a textbook. Over 90% of teachers that I've seen, basically use these guides as their standard operating procedure. And the "teacher's guide" basically does just what it says--it guides. It is a pacing guide, it gives ideas (strategies to engage ELL), it gives testing materials (i.e. assessment), etc. And as a new teacher, I would rely primarily on these curriculums.

    My questions are about how these facts should factor in to the interview process. I'm imagining that over-emphasizing your... reliance on these curriculums wouldn't go over well with interviewers. But at the same time, that is the truth. And as a grade team member, these will be the main tool that will guide your teaching.

    As a sub teacher, I think I struggle with how to answer questions as they relate to specifics inside the classroom. One of the things I hate is trying to lend extra importance to (somewhat trivial) experiences I've had, in an effort to answer the question in a way that won't hurt me in the process. I just want to answer questions as honestly as possible. So in the case of questions in the classroom (e.g. How do you accomodate ELL in your classroom, or describe a lesson that went well), as a day-to-day sub TBH: I don't really have good answers to these questions. What I would like to say is that as a new teacher, I would rely on resources (i.e. curriculum guides) for all the things it does provide (i.e. strategies, ideas, pacing), to those aforementioned questions.

    I don't want to make sound like I'm unprepared obviously, but that is the truth: As a new teacher, I'm imagining that I will work very in-depth within these guides, and these will largely shape and guide my first few years as a teacher. It may sound generic and lacking in imagination, but that doesn't reflect the type of that I am. And at the same time, it is going to be the truth for me and any other teacher they end of hiring.
     
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  3. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Curriculum maps and pacing guides are typically something a teacher is required to follow. Our maps/guides do not include lessons, but the order in which things need to be taught.

    My current school has NO textbook adoptions. I feel this is becoming more common for two reasons- the lack of funds and the increasing importance of technology.

    I suggest you start researching resources to use, because it will not only be more impressive in an interview, but it could be necessary upon employment. FCRR is a good place to start.
     
  4. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I'm sure you can answer these questions with 'while subbing, this is what I did...' instead of 'this is what I will do'. Saying you have done something already is better than promising what you will do.
    Even as a day to day sub, I'm sure you can think of ways to answer these questions. That's what I did.

    You do accommodate for ELLs: frontloading vocab, using visuals, more frequent comprehension checks, etc, even if you didn't plan the lesson.
    You can definitely describe lessons that you implemented well, but I think you said you did several LTS assignments, so I'm sure you planned those lessons. Talk about those.
     
  5. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Curriculum may be guided by the textbook in many districts, but that doesn't mean you have to do the lessons as laid out in the textbook. Many times textbooks don't have students use manipulatives, labs, reading/writing workshop, use of technology, literature circles, group work, projects, etc. that you would want to use in your classroom. Think of ways you will be supplementing the curriculum in your own class and it might be easier to answer the questions.
     
  6. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    As Giraffe said, it's becoming more and more common to move away from textbook teaching, especially with Common Core. There is now an emphasis on teaching reading skills through the content of science and social studies (integrating the subjects) as opposed to teaching them in isolation. Many textbooks are not set up to teach the content standards you are required to teach along with the proper reading standards. Also, it seems that there is an emphasis on teaching through "real" books rather than basal readers. So, I would not expect to rely heavily on textbooks in your first years of teaching. Be prepared to seek out resources in your building, on the internet, at your local library, and through your colleagues. This doesn't mean you won't ever use a textbook, but it's unlikely you'll have one for every subject you teach and use it every single day.

    Also, a quick thought on the word "curriculum":
    My first year of teaching I was confused on what the word curriculum actually meant. I assumed that the textbooks were our curriculum, and I allowed the teacher's guide to guide my teaching, just as you have described. Then I went to a conference over that first summer break where I was corrected multiple times by the facilitator. Every time I used the word curriculum to describe the published reading program we used at my school, she corrected me mid-sentence and told me to call it a program. I finally got the message.... A "curriculum" tells you what standards to teach, how to pace them, and how to assess students. It is usually created by your school district and approved by your school board. A "program" is a tool to help you meet curriculum requirements, and it often consists of textbooks created by educational publishers and the other materials (i.e. manipulatives, assessments, etc.) that come along with them. In my case, my school was a brand new charter, and we had no actual curriculum, believe it or not. We were told to "just teach the state standards." So, looking back, I feel like I did the best I could with what I had. I sure wish I had known the definitions of these two words before going to that workshop though.
     
  7. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I have taught elementary for nine years, and I have never used a textbooks. Textbooks do not guide the curriculum, your standards do that. Many states are now implementing common core, and very few textbooks match the common core at this point.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    My district has never been driven by textbooks and we tend to not hire teachers who seem to have only had experience with or seem overly reliant on 'packaged' curriculum programs.
     
  9. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Thanks for all the replies so far.

    Your comments are very interesting. I would imagine though, that the shift brought about (i.e. Common Core), will be reflected by the Houghton-Mifflins of the world as well, would it not? Bear in mind, when I say that I use/would use these "programs" :p extensively, I'm not saying that they are the be-all, end-all. I'm just saying that they are overwhelmingly used in classrooms I've worked in (and I happen to work in one of the highest performaing school systems in the country), and so referring to that as a good practice shouldn't be a negative thing, should it?

    The textbooks are aligned with the standards though. That's why I said that I imagine that I would be somewhat immersed in them initially, as they would give a new teacher something concrete with which to look at them (the standards).

    As opposed to what though? New teachers don't have experience doing much of anything (i.e. that's why they are new). In my own experience for example (student-teaching and LTS), both were reliant on these packaged programs, as you call them. Again, the negative connotation is what I don't understand.

    As I said, these programs work as an all-purpose guide, such that anyone with the desire (e.g. homeschooler) could conceivably use it/them and take them through the curriculum. An experienced teacher would be able to adapt the program for the specific needs of his/her class. But the point is that these programs (e.g. Houghton-Mifflin) are approved for use by the school, and so it shouldn't be a knock against your teaching. Are you saying that your district doesn't provide these types of programs to teachers? If so, then it is a different issue.

    I'm really not trying to quibble here, but I hope people can see my point. Using these approved programs (which the district has shelled out money to buy, which assumes that they like and want them to be used) certainly shouldn't carry a negative slant in/of itself. They're a guide... like training wheels if you will. A new student-teacher or LTS is thrust into a teaching scenario. Are they supposed to eschew something that will help them (i.e. training wheels) and freelance based on their own very limited PoV?
     
  10. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I do see your point, John Lee, and I as mentioned in my previous post, I did exactly as you are describing my first year of teaching. Towards the end of that year though, relying on the textbook just didn't sit right with me. For my very last unit that year, I taught the strategies from the book but found trade-books to teach those strategies. I then continued this method the following year.

    As this pertains to interviews, I think we're just trying to make sure you understand that, depending on where you are hired, you may not even have textbooks to begin to rely on. If you know for a fact that the school where you are interviewing has them, then by all means bring them up. However, I caution you to go with your instinct and not mention that you would rely on the textbook guides. Rather, talk about how you will seek out many tools, including the textbooks, internet, colleagues, etc., to assist you in teaching the standards and meeting the objectives set forth in the curriculum. Most schools want teachers to see those packaged programs as a resource available to them, but they do not want the teacher to rely on them. They want a teacher who can be creative about how he/she uses the materials available to teach what needs to be taught.
     
  11. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    We have not adopted programs for all subjects. Our district has adopted some programs that are used as supplements, but it would not be possible in my district to adequately teach all standards by using a purchased program. Even as a first year teacher I did not rely on them. I prefer to use the standards to plan my lessons.

    When I had a sub, I frequently left work from these programs to do. It was easier to create my sub plans since the "lessons" were already written out. My sub plans did not completely reflect what a typical day in my classroom entailed.

    For that reason, you may get a skewed idea of the prevalence of purchased programs.

    There is nothing wrong with saying that you will use programs that the district has adopted. However, as others have said, you should have many other resources and strategies.

    Teaching is an art and a science. The textbook writers do not know YOUR students and no program can be written to meet their particular needs and a particular point in time.
     
  12. tonysam

    tonysam Comrade

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    You guys are really behind the times...the trend now is to "go by the book" with prepackaged curriculum which ARE aligned with state and national standards and "common core." You are also provided with supplements to the main curriculum, and I am thinking reading and language arts here, that focus on RTI and ELL. You are stuck in the 1990s, and the trends are completely different now. You are an absolute fool to not use textbooks because they are there to save you time yet provide students what they need. Supplemental materials are great, but you had better follow the requirements of your school district.

    You do NOT have freedom to do whatever the hell you want unless you have a career death wish.

    You are way behind the times here; this is no longer "whole language" mantra which forced teachers to create their own lessons.

    Private schools are different and you have a whole lot more leeway.
     
  13. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I was thinking this, too.
     
  14. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Considering I was in kindergarten, and not teaching, in 1990, I don't think I'm stuck in the 1990's.

    My public school has gone the other route with the adoption of common core. We got rid of the textbooks and spent all the money buying school-board approved trade-books that align to the curriculum, which aligns to the standards. We are required to follow the curriculum, but we have freedom, as respected and trusted teachers, to make the decisions as to how we teach the curriculum. My school district is fabulous in that they actually gave us example daily lesson plans. They're all written out for us! They were given to us with the sentiment: Here's something to get you started, but you are the ones who know your students best. You must use the objectives and assessments outlined in the curriculum, but you can get the kids there using the approved and supplementary materials however you want.

    I would probably not like working where you teach.
     
  15. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    We don't use common core in Texas, but there aren't any textbooks that are adequate for our standards either. I only use textbooks as a resource, and even then, I don't use the lessons in the TE.
     
  16. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    I am following the requirements of my school district, thank you very much. I'm not interested in the "trend" you speak of. I actually work for the curriculum department. For the 12 years I spent in the classroom, I followed district pacing guides but wrote or adapted lessons to meet the needs of my current students.

    I also wasn't teaching in 1990. Or 1998 for that matter. ;)
     
  17. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I guess it depends on where you are; I've never taught with a scripted program or been expected to follow a textbook. Like teacherintexas, I consider a textbook one resource I can draw upon, nothing more.
     
  18. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    :thumb: all of the above.
    Nope, sorry, tonysam....there certainly are textbooks claiming to be aligned ith CCSS, but for the most part they are just the old stuff repackaged. Most states haven't been through a whole year of common core yet and standardized testing for CCSS (PAARC) hasn't been fully implemented yet either. School districts in my area are very wary of heavily investing in packaged CCSS programs because of these timing/experience factors...and even then, many districts still won't purchase these materials, because contrary to what you may think, the trend is NOT 'go with the book' for many of us.:2cents:

    And as far as you judging any teacher as 'behind the times',tony, hasn't it been about five years since you last worked as a professional educator? Things change quickly and your experience is not the norm for most of the membership here. I wish you well, but your bitterness is not helpful to those seeking support and guidance.
     
  19. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    You have to be careful when saying the textbooks are aligned to the standards. For instance, the 5th grade science textbook used in my last district was mostly aligned to 4th and 6th grade standards. The textbook company was able to sell their product because it was "aligned to state standards," but was quite useless to 5th grade teachers. As with any resource, teachers need to use textbooks appropriately, and as a resource only.
     
  20. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    :|

    "Absolute fools not to use textbooks", huh? You are clearly the one "behind the times" to not realize that many, many districts no longer purchase textbooks because of budget cuts. And regarding the "career death wish' for not following prepackaged curriculums that so many don't provide, clearly people are sharing otherwise. Any textbooks we have are simply additional resources...they absolutely do not guide the entire class.
     
  21. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    That is the opposite of the trend here too.
     
  22. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Thank you. You explained the PoV perfectly, and I certainly agree (by the end of your 1st year, you were able to cater more specifically to your students' needs).

    To the people who are saying that they dumb down their lessons for subs... I'm not ignorant to that. I do realize that sub material is not going to be exotic. But give me a little credit too, in knowing that fact. Also, give me credit in being able to recognize that when I speak (as a sub), I speak from experience as well. Even if I was going by what happens during my (sub) day, I can certainly gauge the students and how familiar they are in terms of that "routine" (whether or not the textbook is something they regularly use).

    I don't understand what people are saying when they say that school textbooks are not aligned with standards/Common Core. I might be outing myself in my lack of knowledge in these areas, but textbooks are aligned with standards. Those standards, however outdated or not applicable they may be, can relate to the current standards can they not? In 4th grade, if students are supposed to be able to determine the theme of a selection, according to state standards... What would be the difference in using a textbook that aligns with that standard (along with the countless others), even if the push is toward something else (Common Core)? Wouldn't Common Core address that same standard? And therefore, your use of textbook related practices still justified.

    Say I get hired... the only resources I have, are me (my own experience), my fellow teachers (i.e. grade-level team members, who I'll collaborate, plan, pace, etc. with), and the basal materials (textbooks) that are provided to me (by the school system) as a teacher. I have to get from Point A (the first day of school), to Point B (let's call it the first report card). I'm supposed to assess students in all of the areas on the report card, based on the curriculum over the first 10 or however many weeks in that period.

    How am I going to do that? Am I supposed to just trot out my own ideas and try to reinvent my own wheel? Or am I'm going to use a resource like a "prepackaged" program (and especially if fellow teachers are using it) and use it as a guide... i.e. so that I don't go off in a totally different direction. So that I'm aligned, by and large, the correct way. So that I, as a new teacher, don't totally neglect a small or large portion of the standards because I was preoccupied figuring out stuff that is already sort of mapped out for me.

    MrsC made a point about "scripted" programs, and it is an important distinction. I'm not talking about that; I can see how that might tend to take away aspects of teaching and make you look less skilled. I'm talking about a teacher's use of a comprehensive (if not basic), adaptable, widely-used, professional program(s), and the negative impression that it seems to have.
     
  23. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Most textbooks will be aligned to some standard, somewhere out there, yes. However, it may not be aligned to the standards that are to be taught during a particular unit or quarter or even at your grade-level. That's where the point of using the textbook as a resource, and not to guide your teaching, comes in. If it fits into what you need to teach at a certain point in time, then it might make sense to use it as a resource. To rely on it to meet all of your grade-level standards in the right order with the right emphasis on each one would be a mistake. You may need to pull in other resources in combination with or in place of the textbook to properly meet the objectives in the curriculum.

    Rely on your more experienced teammates. They will help you figure out how to get started. They are absolutely your best resource. If the school culture is to use textbooks as your primary teaching tool, you'll find out. If it's not, then they will help lead you towards doing things the way that is expected by your administration.
     
  24. DHE

    DHE Connoisseur

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    John~I had the privledge to serve on the Interview Committee aw we prepare for our new school year. When we ask questions on what should be used to plan our lessons, we were looking for Common Core as the primary source. Your textbooks would be used as a resource. Like was stated, most states are using CCSS to guide their curriculum. CCSS are replacing standards that were formerly used by each state; some standards are not the same. Most states are using CCSS with a few not using them. I know Texas and Virginia aren't, not sure of the others.
     
  25. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    John, you had previously equated teaching elementary to babysitting on steroids. The reason I bring this up again is not to be catty but because it surprises me you said that without having a great deal of knowledge of an elementary classroom curriculum-wise. Confusing.
     
  26. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Ok. I hadn't previously read the thread you were referring to... I took a few weeks off... but I went back and found it and read the comments you're referring to. I had been wondering why someone who wanted to be an elementary teacher would assume that all we teachers do is teach from the teacher's guide. If that was the case, then truly anybody off the street could do it. It wasn't making any sense to me why someone who clearly seemed invested in becoming one of us would degrade the profession like that. I didn't realize the problem went so much deeper. Now I get it.
     
  27. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    So in your attempt to not be catty, you want to dig up a previous thread that was banished, and potentially derail this one?

    If you want you to try and antagonize me or want me to respond (in a PM), that's fine. I think I've shown that I don't mind speaking my mind. But come on; this is a worthwhile thread (at least to me it is).
     
  28. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Ah, so the OP is just trying to point out how stupid elementary teachers are, not trying to get any real information. I will now delete my previous response to this thread. I'm not playing this game.
     
  29. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I didn't realize that thread had been "banished". And it was only a few days ago...it's not as though I "dug up" your words from years ago. Anyhow, I really don't think it's antagonistic. I think it brings up a valid point, though.
     
  30. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    My experience is in high school and middle school. At none of the schools I was at was there any kind of "prepackaged" program. I was given a list of state standards and told to teach. All lesson plans were my own creation.
     
  31. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    I would suggest that you look into what more schools are doing than just the ones you've taught in. I student taught in 2 public schools and neither of them had a textbook per say- middle school had one that stayed home and we never opened it up in class, high school used powerpoint presentations and labs.

    Of course this will depend on the type of subject- some subjects are more inclined to use per-packaged curriculum designed by a company that may or may not align to certain types of standards, but not all subjects do this.

    If a teacher is meeting the standards necessary and students are doing well, then I don't see why she/he should have to follow a textbook - a flawed tool to begin with - when a well-designed lesson can do just as good of a job.

    Being that I've worked in private schools for 5 years now, I agree with this to a point. At my first position, I was basically given 2 FOSS kits and a STC kit to teach my science classes. There were student lab books to go along with it with supplemental reading, but neither of those are traditional textbooks by any means. At my second position, I've thrown out all of the textbooks and I rely on resources online and found in trade books to meet the necessary standards that I must teach. I'm still responsible for making sure my students are prepared for high school, so I can't just do whatever I want to do even though I'm in a private school.
     
  32. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Tonysam I think the main point your post misses is that there isn't uniformity in textbooks or curricula. If a textbook is spot on and includes all materials you'd need, sure - stick closely to it. Many teachers find that those textbooks don't. How would you respond in that situation?

    I'd also challenge the way you bring in several concepts:

    1) How does whole language relate to the alignment of curriculum materials such as a textbook? A textbook could be equally misaligned and therefore irrelevant under a direct instruction approach.

    2) RtI is not a set of material, nor is it something that is non-inclusive of the general curricula. RtI includes a strong Tier I/general education foundation, and is an approach to instruction and supporting students - not a content area. Same with ELL.

    3) The year or decade of origin of someone's idea is not relevant. Rather, the quality of the idea. Direct instruction was around long before "whole language" was ever a phrase, and is still around today. In fact, you could argue that folks advocating best practices today related to reading instruction are stuck in the 1970s.

    Still, I agree with your point that teachers can't simply do whatever they want - not only in terms of school policy, but in terms of best practice. I think, however, that teachers should be given professional freedom to make decisions justified by evidence & best practice, within certain parameters. I'm not sure that I see any evidence in this thread that teachers here have advocating for reckless and purposeless freedom.
     

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