Friday, June 1, 2012

Shifting Roles

What's the difference between a classroom teacher and a textbook author?

See, I know that you are all set for some snide punch line about curriculum writers, but actually, my motivation for this post is in defense of the 'other side.'

I should start by saying that the reason for my idleness since March is that I started a new job as a mainstream editor of secondary math resources. While this is not my first experience in the professional publishing industry, this past year has been a fascinating mental shift from classroom teaching, to independent writing, and now to my current role as a cog in a great big machine.

In my current project, I have spent over 300 hours pouring over every detail of a teacher's edition for a new pre-algebra program. The program includes animated media clips for daily lesson hooks, scripted teacher presentations that include digital slides/screens, daily student workshop routines, solutions and coaching prompts for anticipated student shortcomings, journal prompts, formative and summative assessments, digital math tools for presentation or student use, online homework with integrated media supports, and on and on.

Is it perfect? Certainly not. But boy, is it comprehensive.

My reason for saying all this is not for promotion of either this particular curriculum or company (who shall both remain nameless), but rather a two-fold defense for the corporate model of educational publishing:

  • First, take a closer look at the current mountain of resources in your department's resource closet. Find one that jives with you and really delve into all that it has to offer. You'll probably be surprised. Cut and paste tactics are not really the best for continuity, so stick with one. And if your closet is old and full of terrible resources that you hate, don't dismiss the entire industry. There ARE good curriculum packages out there. Look carefully and critically, make the district see your case for investment in new resources, and the payoff is huge. Imagine the joy of not needing to create everything from scratch.
  • Second, I LOVE I have my own storefront, and I love browsing the beautiful, creative, and inexpensive resources that other teachers have posted there. But, shame on you Paul Edelman for the slogan "Teachers Pay Teachers, not big corporations... it's about time." There are some things that large teams of authors, editors, artists, programmers, and analysts can do better than individual teachers. Honestly, I think current, integrated, and comprehensive curriculum programs fall into that category. Yes, there are faults, and yes, there is room for competition from the classroom perspective, but I think teachers will be better equipped to survive as partners to big corporations, rather than opponents. As an inexpensive and creative way to supplement an existing program, BRAVO! As a protest against corporations, not so much.

After all, believe it or not, both teachers and corporations are interested in the academic success of our students. Just imagine where we could take those kids in a consolidated effort.