Curriculum Toolbox: from hodgepodge to cohesive

Hodge Podge with Shurley English.jpg

During my undergraduate days, I was headlong into all of my pre-teaching training courses. I truly enjoyed all of them. But, as I neared my junior and senior years of college, I began to get more into the philosophies of teaching. It seems that, at that time, the prevalent theories of teaching led my professors to refuse to tout the use of specific curriculum. That was both good and bad. It was good because it forced me to think along the lines that I did not need to depend on current published curriculum to be able to teach well. It was bad, however, because it generated the incorporation of a hodgepodge type of homemade curriculum that was left strictly up to me to develop and teach—risky, to say the least.

After I landed my first teaching gig, I knew I was in trouble because the school district had a mandated curriculum, which is what I was told would probably happen. We were taught in college to “just close your door and teach the way you know is right.” Well, that was risky, too, because my lack of experience in the classroom made it nearly impossible to know “what was right.” So, I proceeded with what I thought was right while still trying to adhere to the required curriculum. What I discovered unsettled me. Not only was I realizing that the prescribed curriculum had been chosen because the school got a good deal on it, but also I learned that it was fragmented. I WAS becoming an expert at hodgepodge because I had to scour resource after resource to find filler curriculum to bridge the gaps between the reading books, spelling books, language arts books, and the all the other subjects I had to teach. So, I suppose it was a good thing that I had been taught how to do it, but I was on very shaky ground. What’s worse is that my students were paying for my instability. I found myself plodding even deeper into other resources that might offer me a happy-medium. I needed a curriculum that would bridge the gaps, especially in the language arts arena—and I needed the bridging to make sense. My hodgepodge approach was creating chaos. What became clear to me was that I lacked the connective tissue between methodology and curriculum…that’s when, after a couple of location changes and school district changes, I got wind of Shurley English—and a breath of fresh air it was!

Finally…a curriculum that articulated the language arts in a way that was both methodical and systematic. It was the curricular sinew I needed to bridge the gaps I knew existed in my current system. If you read an earlier article of mine Becoming a Real Teacher, you know that all of the chaos I had inadvertently created through my hodgepodge curricular approach gradually dissipated into thin air. I had stumbled upon a technique of teaching that far surpassed any of the practical information that had been available to me in my teacher training days. What was more, I had a new sense of direction…and I just KNEW I was heading in the right direction for the first time since having begun my teaching career.

What about you? Is your backstory similar to mine? Have you been closing your door and teaching with less than enthusiasm and more frustration than you can bear to face? Is your district funding at a standstill, forcing you to generate a hodgepodge of pieces of curriculum with holes in it?  If you’re looking for a method of teaching—no, check that…a  purpose for teaching that takes your knowledge base further than you would have hoped, don’t miss the chance to bring Shurley English to your classroom. It might well be the solution for you as it was for me.