Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: To Weed or Not to Weed #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: To Weed or Not to Weed #SOL19 #TWTBlog

A wise mentor once told me to think about gardening when it comes to curriculum.  Many literacy leaders and educators fall into the trap of continually adding new programs, ideas, and initiatives without deciding what needs to go.  While each may have merits unto itself, trying to teach too many things forces us not to teach anything well.  We all know that in terms of curriculum, depth is preferred to breadth to give students time to explore and synthesize information.

Change is difficult.  We are all comfortable with the familiar.  We often have trouble letting things go or “weeding” because it is how we have always done it.  I personally love tradition and can relate to wanting to keep the tried and true. The problem is that there is not enough time to get it all done and to get it done well.  When we try to keep the old while incorporating the new, we simply run out of time.

This time crunch is causing stress for teachers and students.  We need to realize that we cannot do it all and it does not benefit our students to literally drag them through the curriculum so we can keep pace.  We need to slow down so our students have time and space to learn, reflect, revise, and celebrate.

Weeding the garden of our curriculum is not easy.  It is like someone coming into your home and removing your couch.  They may think you don’t need the couch.  They may plan to replace it with stuffed chairs.  But you love your couch.  You can’t envision your living room without your couch.  Many of us feel the same way about our curriculum.  How do we know what to keep and what to let go of?  How do we trust new programs?  What will be lost if we let certain units or practices go? 

I always recommend not weeding until you get to know the curriculum or practices you will be adding. It feels better to know what is going to replace the familiar before you remove it.  Still, I find most teachers hold on longer than they should, and it causes problems.

I am always looking for ideas or protocols to guide the process of “weeding.”  This week’s #G2Great Twitter Chat is focused on helping us do just that – The 39 Stops to Making Schools Better.  We all know we need to weed and these authors will identify 39 practices, programs, processes, philosophies, and people problems that schools must eliminate in order to improve education for all involved.   The timing of this chat could not be better!  Spring is the perfect time to try new things and let some things go.  If we experiment now at the end of the year and work through all the kinks, it sets us up to start the year with focus and intention.  Lucy Calkins, in her April office hours, encouraged all of us to do just that,Anything you want to try next year, try it now!  Now’s the time.  You know your kids, this is the time to experiment.” 

I plan to join #G2Great Twitter chat this Thursday, May 16 at 8:30 pm EST to find out more about these 39 Stops.  Hope you will join me!

And … congratulations to Amanda Pitzele!  You have won a copy of Debbie Miller’s book, What’s the Best That Could Happen?  Please email me your contact information so I can send it to you!  Clare.landrigan@gmail.com

This week share what you do to help yourself “weed” your curriculum/program/initiative garden to slow down and give your students more time to truly learn in the comments.   I will use a random number generator to choose a winner on May 17.  The winner will receive a copy of The 39 Stops to Making Schools Better.  I will announce the winner on the blog on Tuesday, May 21.


Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

  • Avatar
    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 10:17h, 14 May Reply

    Thanks for sharing this twitter chat Clare. I must attend.
    Your analogy of someone taking away a couch frames the loss quite nicely. As I work with teachers to map curriculum and try new ideas, your post gives me new direction and hope. I don’t have any ideas on processes yet but hope reflection and participation In the chat will lead me to new insights.

  • Avatar
    Chris Margocs
    Posted at 10:45h, 14 May Reply

    As a librarian, your title drew me in; weeding is essential to maintaining our collection, and I will be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks. I will be weeding through my lessons this year to see what needs to be culled for next year, and what needs to be re-energized in a different format. I’ll be sharing this post with my teacher friends!

  • Avatar
    Krista Senatore
    Posted at 11:39h, 14 May Reply

    Clare, I love this idea of weeding our curriculum! This post is so timely as we begin planning scope and sequences for next year. I appreciate your acknowledging that it is hard to let go of things but as you said, it is necessary! Less is more is my mantra! – Krista from Lit Coach Connection

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    Erika Victor
    Posted at 12:21h, 14 May Reply

    Weeding IS so hard, but as you say, so necessary. I think the problem is that we teachers often feel like we are not the ones who are able to make the decisions on what to keep and what to weed, yet we cannot do it all, so we end up weeding by default, which is not as purposeful. I know that this year I let go of some things I’d like to keep…The book sounds good!

  • Avatar
    Fran McVeigh
    Posted at 19:58h, 14 May Reply

    If one “gives up” one single idea and adds “only one”,
    the world is balanced.
    However desperately holding onto the couch,
    and adding two armchairs –
    upsets the balance, crowds the spaces, and creates frown lines every day!

    Change is hard.
    But maybe demoting something to once a week, once a month, or once a quarter . . . can help even out the process.

    It was fun to see exactly how you framed your “weeding”!

  • Avatar
    Eileen Sprague
    Posted at 22:35h, 14 May Reply

    This is an excellent post – very relevant to what we are currently doing in my district. One way that I have found successful in the weeding process is listening to teachers/students talk about something they might not be ready to ‘weed.’ By asking them what it is about the initiative/program/text, etc., that they can’t live without, it usually ‘weeds’ out a need that they feel something new might not meet. (Ex: getting rid of a basal means we won’t have leveled readers for our students.) I then use that information to help make connections to something the new thing might offer to meet the underlying need, or rally and champion to make sure we have resources to ensure their needs are met! I think listening overall is the best way to ensure that everyone is supported in the curriculum process!

  • Avatar
    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 02:28h, 15 May Reply

    A give away – how fun and kind of you. I find looking at new resources or practices always goes better with a slow and steady approach. Sometimes the new ideas are too wordy, too lengthy, and it’s easy to get caught up on the fast pace of it all. I find myself stepping back, reducing the words, and reduce the length. Looking for small nuggets to enrich our work lets me hop off the bus of do more, do more, go.

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