I know a lot of excellent teachers who reuse the same lesson plans every year. They’ve found what works for them, and they stick to it. But for me, it just doesn’t work. Even after 14 years in the classroom, I spend part of my summer completely recreating my classroom curriculum.
Well, I don’t completely redesign my curriculum every year. As long as I teach seventh grade, we will read The Outsiders. But overall, I find that I’m a better teacher when I change things up every year. Here’s why.
1. New research makes us better educators.
I took two classes over the summer. One was about women’s history, and one was about strategies for struggling readers. Now, I’m adding tons of articles and stories to my curriculum to include women from diverse backgrounds, and I’m completely restructuring the way I teach reading because I think I’ve learned a better way to do it.
These are just a couple of my own examples, but I know there are many other options for educators, based on subject, grade, and overall interest. As we continue to learn as educators, it helps us evolve in the classroom, too.
2. New books give us new ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, The Giver and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry are amazing, and I’ll still teach them—sometimes. But I don’t want my kids to miss out on great new books like I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter or North of Happy.
New texts require new lesson plans. And since I like incorporating new books, I’ll always be creating new material each year.
3. Old books bring new ideas, too.
I enjoy browsing the public library’s nonfiction section, and a while back I checked out bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress. Her ideas about empowering students to take control of their education rocked my world so much that I completely redesigned my class to allow for more student choice.
This is also a good reminder that we don’t always have to look for new releases to bring in fresh curriculum ideas. A book doesn’t have to be new to impact my teaching; it just has to be new to me.
4. Current events are worth tackling.
While students don’t always get their news from the reputable sources we’d prefer, they are a lot more aware of what’s going on in the world than kids a couple of generations ago. We have a responsibility to help them process the information they’re receiving and to help them sort out fact from fiction. Plus, this is an election year, so I’m sure I’ll be making plans on the fly to address any wild campaign scandals that come up!
5. It’s fun to keep changing up the curriculum.
I teach at a school that lets me design my own curriculum, and I hope I never forget how lucky I am to have that opportunity. Coming up with new ideas and figuring out ways to inspire students and make learning relevant for them was my favorite part of playing school when I was little. (Yeah, I was real nerdy.) Now I get to do it for real. It’s a constant challenge that stretches my creativity and forces me to think outside the box.
Not every teacher needs to change their curriculum every year. And if you’ve got it all figured out in a way that works for you and your kids, that’s great. But as for me, I’ll be spending some late nights after planning reading articles, watching TED Talks, and making vocabulary lists. And I plan to enjoy it.
What new classroom curriculum are you working on this year? Share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out these back-to-school organization ideas.