This past year I had the opportunity to write my own tech curriculum. I was starting at a new school with a new set of students and two labs I’d never taught in before. It was a shot in the dark.

I used the ISTE NETS framework to build the curriculum, mapping out a schedule of when I would teach what and which skills were at what level for each grade, but I had no idea where my students were on that map.

Now that a year has passed, I am scrapping nearly the entire thing and rebuilding it based on what I now know about my students, what I have learned over the course of the school year about teaching and learning as well as what I have observed as successful and what has failed in how I teach and design lessons and units.

My curriculum next year will be twice as good as this year’s, I’m certain.

So I struggle with the idea of canned curricula, books and series put out by publishing companies and labeled as ‘curriculum.’

No wonder many teachers feel like robots, delivering what the teacher’s guide says is the objective for the day. I’m not even sure I know any teachers in Philadelphia who have played a part in writing the curriculum they teach. Why are we being told by someone outside of our school or community tell us what our kids need to know?

This doesn’t mean that teaching should be anarchy, with each school doing whatever they want whenever they want. We still need to have an agreed upon idea of what we (meaning teachers as a whole across the nation/world) think our students should know. The issue is figuring out how to get there. To me, that is the magic of writing a curriculum that meets the needs of your students. It is not a fixed document, it is fluid and can be revised. It is not paired to a textbook or a reading series. It is a loose framework that acts as a map to help us navigate through the school year and move our students toward the larger essential questions and understandings that we want them to have.

So please, trust us. Know that we are professionals whose expertise is children. Let us use what we know about our students and about teaching and learning to craft a curriculum together that best meets the needs of our community. Let us have input into the document. Foster conversations across grade levels about skills and concepts students need to have or understand to be successful. Stop calling purchased reading series and social studies textbooks ‘curricula.’

Trust us, please.


  1. Reply

    Between “Everyday Math” and “Treasures” (both from McGraw-Hill with its ties to NCLB), I find that the hoops that teachers have to go through (and students, too) are atrocious. The overly contrived material and ridiculous busy work for both students and teachers isn’t helping to educate our kids–anything but. What’s happened to education since NCLB is tragic and it’s only going to get worse. As long as there’s a profit to be made, corporations will be pushing kids and teachers into traffic as they pursue the almighty dollar.

  2. Brian Cohen


    I got lambasted recently for not being able to be “tracked” in my lesson plans. I think that basically meant that I wasn’t using the book and that was bad.

  3. mbteach


    Yes, it’s often expected that an administrator or coach should know exactly what page you are on when they walk in your room based on your lesson plans. So much for Essential Questions and Big Ideas and the, you know, Big Picture!

  4. Reply

    Bravo Mary Beth! This is exactly the thing I needed to read today. I have written my own curriculum the past two years (for reading classes) and am in a scripted curriculum situation this year. It’s been a challenge in many ways. The most powerful evidence of useful teaching is other teacher stories. Yours helps me build a narrative in my head of other teachers doing what’s right. I’ll keep looking for more šŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: Can I Handle the Freedom? – This Is Not News

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