Literally, the class I’m working in does not use a textbook. It isn’t that we have made the decision that we can teach better than a textbook can, but the school does not actually have textbooks for precalculus. On top of that, the precalculus class resembles a defense against the dark arts class at Hogwarts. I have five years of curriculum from five teachers who each taught at the school for a single year. The teacher I am working under is in his first year at this school (and hopefully not his last).
I’ve always imagined myself writing my own curriculum as a teacher. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to move through a textbook linearly – chapter after chapter, section after section. I can only conceive of the mind-numbing, creativity-killing effect it would have on my pedagogy. My history with textbooks has instilled a (perhaps unreasonable) hatred towards them as a whole. So the chance to create my own curriculum should be an amazing opportunity, right?
Here are the problems I’m currently facing…
1) I’ve never taught precalculus before. Remembering all the facets of precalculus is like recalling the names of every student in my cohort from memory. I know them all, and if I see them I can name them, but without that visual queue I’m bound to forget a few. When I am planning a unit I have to sit down and think long and hard about all the little pieces that go into that unit. I feel like a textbook would provide a skeletal structure of the class. I would have the basic ideas of things I need to cover, but how to fatten up the curriculum would be up to me.
2) I have never taught before. When it comes to ordering units, planning time allotments, and focusing on individual concepts I have no history to draw on. I feel like every day I am reinventing the wheel. I have a vague idea about how it all fits together, but without practice, I am really struggling to optimize the structure of the curriculum without anything to draw on. I feel like a textbook might be like a single route from where I am to where I want to go. I don’t have to take every road it recommends, but I at least would be able to see where I’m going.
3) I am already overwhelmed with work. With classes for grad school I have no free time. With planning lessons and trying to connect the theories I’m studying to the practice I have in the classroom I feel like all I do is eat, sleep, and work. Now add a lack of supplementary materials to the equation and a real problem starts to emerge. All the materials we give our students are homemade. Again, this is an amazing opportunity to only give the students what we feel is integral to their education – if only I had the time for it. I feel like a text book might serve as a crutch to lean on. I could draw from problems/ideas/ways of looking a things from the book. I could use the materials I really like and ignore anything else.
Someday I would love the opportunity to construct my own curriculum. Just not in my zeroth year of teaching.