This being my first full year in this position, there were some things that I have not yet experienced. For one, the yearly construction of the high school course of studies. Every year there is a race to beat the deadline for any changes we are making to what we offer to our high schoolers. This year my departments are undergoing some significant change, and our course choices are expanding. It was a rush, to be blunt.
We are adding AP Art History, History of Genocide/Holocaust Studies, Contemporary Issues, and Philosophy to the History Department. We have completely overhauled our Visual Art classes to include more full year classes instead of semester courses, and we have added AP Art Studio as an option for our Juniors and Seniors. We also made some changes to the prerequisites for our Music Theory students.
What does this all mean for me? It means that I have no less than 11 new classes to coordinate the creation and curriculum writing for. Truly, this is what I call an opportunity to create something dynamic, lasting, and important for the students in our district. Hence the title of this post. There will be heavy reliance on this network over the course of the next few months. I know you are up for it.
Also, this means that there are fundamental questions that must be answered in December about classes that are (or are not depending on student choice) going to run in September. The biggest of all of those questions is undoubtedly my budget. Traditionally, when a course is created and curriculum is written textbook selection and review is a huge part of that process. This article by Jay Matthews of the Washington Post on 12/15/08 spoke to an idea that has been bandied about the educational intertubes before: do we spend money on textbooks?
From the article:
In the classrooms I visit, it is often a good sign that the textbooks
are stacked on a corner bookshelf or window sill, gathering dust. The
best teachers have an ongoing conversation with their class, calling on
every student, challenging sloth, praising fresh ideas, moving the
group beyond the text, which covers only the state’s or the school’s
If teachers can write their own textbooks, why not students? It would
make a fine group project, with each kid doing a chapter. Debate the
fine points, put them on the Web and pass them around, irresistible
preparation for the final exam.
I look at the classes above, and aside from the AP classes, is there a need for a textual resource for every student? Financially speaking, for the price of textbooks for one departments’ classes, I can purchase the “Internet accessing device of the moment” as well as subscriptions to any database on earth. What I am going to struggle with is creating classes in that light with stakeholders that will not see the logic in leaving textbooks out of the equation.
Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be lurking on your posts looking for ways to gain access to teachers you know that are creating classes in this manner, that are, as Matthews described his history teacher, Mr. Ladendorff, using “our U.S. history text like a bull’s-eye on a firing range.” This should be good.