Textbooks? Oh bother.

If you’re a loyal follower (or my mother), you’ll remember that I spent two years teaching seventh grade social studies.  During that time, I was given a ten-year-old textbook and supplemental materials to pass out to my students.  Not exactly knowing how the year was going to unfold, I mistakenly passed the books out to the students.  At the end of the year, I collected them – unused all year long.

They were old, boring, and full of boring stuff like…words.  <Insert snoring sounds here>  Seventh grade social studies in Ohio is all about world history.  The kids didn’t want to read words about them.  They wanted experiences.  Anyhow.

For Christmas, my parents gave me a copy of Time magazine’s “100 Events that Changed the World.” If you’re in a position where you’re charged with getting 21st century minds to wrap around ancient world history, PICK UP A COPY!  This paperback, glossy-covered, 122-page Time magazine on steroids is more than enough to guide learning  for all ancient civilizations.  It starts with “Man’s Prehistoric Breakthroughs”, moves through Minoans and Greeks, hits the Roman Empire, discusses The Renaissance and gets its Enlightenment on!  And that’s all before the “Modern Times” section!

So much of world history isn’t “What they did,” as much as it is “What they influenced.”  This magazine demonstrates outstanding segues from one civilization to another, touching on why it came to be and what we got from it.  Your lesson plans are done (kind of)!

We each have our own teaching styles.  We each balance printed and digital resources with our mind’s knowledge and past experiences.  If your repertoire is lacking some of the former, I’d at least check out a copy of this valuable tool.

Resourced Out

I’m moving to a new building and new teaching position this year – seventh grade social studies to fifth grade language arts.

To support me in this transition, my district has done an outstanding job of providing tons, and tons, and tons, of resources.  We have a district literacy consultant.  We have two literacy coaches.  My new principal is our district’s former (position cut) curriculum director.  I have textbooks (don’t use ’em!).  I have workbooks.  I have website subscriptions.  I have supplemental material.  I have supplemental material for the supplemental material.  I have Spanish, Braille, and audio versions of the supplemental material for the supplemental material.  I am RESOURCED OUT!

Too much of a good thing?

Too much of a good thing?

Looking at my filled filing cabinets, overflowing bookshelves, and forever-scrolling bookmark lists, there is no possible way I can digest that amount (or even close to it) of information in my lifetime.  And I don’t know that I need to.

Don’t get me wrong: I would much rather be over-resourced than under-.  I certainly recognize that there are still teachers in our society who are given class lists (maybe), a key to their classroom, and a good-luck handshake.  But with all these resources, am I forgetting still one more?  Me.

Didn’t I spend a whole slew of time, money, and energy going to college (“teacher school” as I tell the kids) to learn not just how-to-teach, but how-to-THINK?  I know exactly what kids need.  I know exactly how they learn.  I spend hours reading blog after webpage after tweet after book after magazine about how to truly master teach.  I don’t need more resources.  I need to use the one resource I’ll always have with me.

So late last week, when I went in my room and saw the stacks of resource books, file folders, and legal pads that I had tried to categorize, I made a simple, but profound move: I put them all away.

Make no mistake, I’ll use them.  But I don’t want to start with them.  I want to start with what’s in my head…and my heart.  I still believe in myself.  On the days where those two things fall short in giving me ideas or direction, only then will I reach for the filing cabinet.