I used to look down on "canned curriculum." I think my attitude came partly from my first teaching experience at a private school in Southern California. I didn't have a teaching credential when I was hired. In fact, I was still about a year of "course work" away from finishing my bachelor's degree. In spite of this I was offered a position as a second grade teacher. The school granted me as well as the rest of the teaching staff an amazing amount of freedom. We were encouraged to innovate and create interesting lesson plans to reach the learning objectives for our particular grade levels. Along with this freedom came two full-time teachers whose sole task was to source instructional materials from a "mini warehouse" on the school campus for us.
Three years later I accepted a teaching job in Oregon. This school ran differently. To accomplish their objectives a "canned curriculum" was used. What I mean by "canned" is that the curriculum guide had a very specific plan that told you what to teach and when to teach it for every day of the school year. It was timed to the minute and even told the teacher when the students should take a break and use the restroom. No kidding! I balked at using it, and eventually replaced it once I took the elementary principal position.
Not all "canned curricula" is the same, however. In hindsight, I probably over-reacted to the extreme micro-management nature of what we used in Oregon. I was guilty of "throwing everything overboard" when much that was good could have been salvaged.
As I mentioned in a previous article, some of you might be considering a break from the state system. If fear of the unknown is holding you back, my suggestion to you is to find a good "canned curriculum." Here are six things a good "canned curriculum" will do for you:
give you an overview of what will be covered during the year.
keep you from having to "re-invent the wheel." They're simple to use because a lot of the thinking has been done for you.
keep you on track. We all tend to gravitate back to teaching our favorite content which leads to a lack of balance and content gaps.
provide a structure for you.
provide you with step-by-step lesson plans.
help pace you through the course, so that you complete the course.
Are you weary of the mindless micro-management of many public charters and home school programs? Is the local charter school becoming "too helpful" and too involved? Tired of the weekly check ins by your friendly academic advisor who is there to make sure you're not using any three or five letter words like "God" or "Jesus?"