5 Tips for Implementing Any New Curriculum Without Burning Out
By Jackie Cope Ed.D.
It seems like every year teachers get yet another program or curriculum left at their doors to implement by the new school year — or even worse, in the middle of the school year, after your routines are established. If this is the case for you, let’s lay down five ground rules to live by when implementing a new curriculum or program that supports teacher well-being and prevents burnout.
Here is how to successfully implement a new curriculum without burning out by the end of the school year:
Define Your Essential Standards
If you have not gone through the process of defining essential standards, I highly recommend going through this process. While the process may be a bit time-consuming, it is time-saving in the end because it reaps rewards. Essential Standards are the standards students must achieve. It is unrealistic to believe that teachers can teach all standards in depth with the amount of time given and the unknown factors that arise throughout the school year. However, teachers can teach essential standards in depth and touch other standards with breadth. For my classroom, I have five ELA essential standards and five Math essential standards. Everything I do in my class surrounds these essential standards and I hit them often. Essential standards are crucial for implementing new curriculum because it allows you to cut away any excess lessons that are unnecessary and are going to cost you your well-being as an educator. Many curriculums come with additional content that can be slowly added in over the year as you gain your footing in the core curriculum. The additional content is not meant to be cut forever, but just during the first year as you start to know the curriculum.
Roughly Map the Year with Those Essential Standards
Once you know your essential standards, look at the provided curriculum map. What units align with your essential standards? Where do they land roughly in the school year? Knowing your students, when are they usually capable of grasping a certain concept? View your essential standards with a yearly progression. As the year goes on, students will be capable of more challenging tasks and be able to fulfill the essential standards. Many times, new curricula assume that students are at a certain point because they have done that particular curriculum since Kindergarten. However, if you teach fifth grade, the students you have did not have this curriculum from K-fourth and therefore do not come with the background knowledge the curriculum is expecting of them yet. In a few years, as the curriculum becomes a part of the school, these assumptions can be made and therefore all components of the curriculum can be administered as planned. You may need to build in time for background knowledge building.
Only Teach to the Essential Standards
Once you define your essential standards, only teach to them in times of overwhelm. There will be days you can get more standards covered and take advantage of that teachable moment, however, in the year of new curriculum implementation, teaching to the essential standards is all that is required.
Be Patient with Yourself, Your Students, and Your Colleagues
Finding patience for yourself can be difficult at times. Many of you may have just finished teaching another curriculum for many years and felt like an expert. Do not compare yourself to the past. You are being expected to implement a whole new curriculum. While standards may be the same, delivery and instruction can vary greatly. Be patient with your students. They are going through a change as well. Many curriculums are developed with a spiral intentionally integrated into each grade level. Now your students are coming to you without the background knowledge this curriculum expects. Be patient with your colleagues. Some colleagues will be early adopters and jump right on board. Some will be hesitant and resistant. We are all on our own teacher journey.
Consistently Reflect on How Lessons Went and Adjust
A powerful tool that can transform your classroom and teaching practices is keeping a professional journal to reflect on your lessons. Constantly reflecting in a positive manner and being constructively critical will help you find what you need, what is working, and what can be adjusted.
Implementing new curriculum brings up a host of feelings and reactions. Take care of your needs, both professionally and personally, while implementing a new curriculum. Reach out to trusted colleagues for advice and use a reflective journal for critical structured reflection. What has worked successfully for you in the past when implementing a new curriculum?
Jackie Cope Ed.D. is a teacher, author, Founder of RavenRabbit LLC, union activist, and a Washoe Tribal member.
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