Aligned by Design: What Learned and How to Apply Level 2
Having had another month to discuss the implementation of Aligned by Design and begin testing out some of the lessons from Level One, I can say that we still have many hurdles to conquer in our district while beginning the program starting next year. Level Two helped to clarify what those hurdles might be, as well as to focus on what more of the lessons might look like but in order to complete the restructuring of our school, we need time, talent, encouragement, collaboration, and content. We might also need to consider what to eliminate in order to achieve our goals.
Time is something that an English teacher never seems to have an abundance of, yet creating a new curriculum will take a lot of time. We will request the hours necessary, but from what we learned, we will need more of those hours than the district has traditionally been willing to allow. In order to save time, our district has been in contact with Hersey's district, so that we might purchase some materials for our own use. This will decrease the ownership of the materials, but it will allow quicker implementation. However, even with purchased or self-created materials, we will still need time in order to coordinate the core departments. It appears as if the district is working towards this with a shortened school day on Wednesday so that teachers can meet and plan together. This time will be critical if we want to create a core curriculum that it integrated and interesting.
If we need to create our own material, we need talent. When we were asked at the Level Two seminar if anyone was interested in writing material for students, I think I was the only person who half-heartedly raised a hand. I'm not sure any other teacher really wants to take on the added load of writing new material, but I understand its importance. Knowing my students and the other teachers in my school, I can craft material that is relevant to what we are teaching and what we want our students to be learning. I have already created material in an attempt to be published, and I have also written scenario (decision making) stories for students that relate to the lesson, trying to incorporate concepts from other classes. The problem has always been that I didn't know what they were learning in those other classes, and finally integrating the curriculum between the core classes will allow me to ask those teachers what should be included in such a “choose your own adventure” kind of story. However, I would also need to adjust these stories to align better with the skills we are trying to teach, rather than as just a fun class activity designed to help students understand decisions characters make in a story. I welcome the challenge of creating alternate texts to stories that we already teach. I am a writer first and a teacher second (in my heart), and if I can use my writing skills to benefit the school, I would feel much more valuable as an educator.
As professionals, we will work to teach our students in the best way possible. We need encouragement in that endeavor. The problem is that every year we receive data we don't understand and increasingly ominous encouragement to do better or else. The atmosphere at school needs to be positive in order for the encouragement to work, but our district may just want to implement without providing the positive help we need. Without collective bargaining and while losing more rights each contract year, we are now charged with recreating ourselves as educators. At the same time, our district has said it wants merit pay to equal about half of what we make. Depending on how this system works, it may or may not encourage teachers to make a legitimate effort in implementing Aligned by Design. I'm making less money that I did last year already, and I can find little incentive to work harder besides being threatened with my job or with getting paid even less than now. That type of encouragement does little for teacher morale and does terrible harm to teacher collaboration.To read more, a subscription is needed: Click here to subscribe