Declutter your Curriculum with This Easy-to-Use Tool
One of my absolute favorite favorite aspects of working as a district alignment coach is that I get to help connect outstanding teachers and leaders to one another. When I served as a secondary department head, I got to connect teachers within my district to one another, but now I get to do this across the entire state of Indiana (and then some!) And while I love the feeling of connecting two people who can support each other--I also, selfishly, LOVE learning from all of my people!
When you work with people in a wide variety of schools, districts, and backgrounds, you find yourself surrounded by the most amazing, creative, organized, focused leaders--everywhere you turn.
While there are differences among our schools, I promise, there are far more commonalities--with my favorite being the truly high quality of leaders and teachers that we have in our schools.
We say often that it's about people, not programs, and by that we mean: invest in your people and systems that will make their lives easier. Teachers want to do what's best for students, and often the reason they can't always do that is because they are in a system that is less. than. organized.
Because I work with a lot of teams, I believe one of my critical roles is to look for ways we can simplify systems to maximize our impact. One area of disorganization that continues to appear in nearly every single district is the lack of a simple, cohesive organization of what our teachers are teaching.
Easy access to K-12 curriculum simply does not exist in most districts.
Instead, curriculum exists on individual employees' drives, or in binders and folders. There are no common, district spaces where anyone (let's say a principal, director, special education teacher, coach or new teacher!) can view the grade level curriculum, a pacing guide to follow, and common assessments to use. We spend half days and full days and PLC time working on documents, only to forget where they are, where we left off, or ignore them completely when it's time to teach the upcoming "unit."
Without a system of where to store our curriculum expectations, we have created proverbial "junk drawers" of information, and teachers are lost in the disarray.
Access to curriculum should look and feel less like a junk drawer and more like a well-organized pantry to closet. To increase teacher effectiveness and retention, to better support new staff and shared staff (ie, special education, ELL, etc) we need to apply Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up to our curriculum materials, and we need to do it yesterday.
If your current curriculum system does not spark joy, it's time to get rid of it.
Thanks to the collaboration of three Central Indiana school leaders, we have a helpful resource you can use to organize your maps in one central, district location.
Sheridan Community Schools
Lynn Werkenthien is the Curriculum Director for Sheridan Community Schools in Sheridan, Indiana. In the 2019-2020 school year, before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Werkenthien and her team began to create aligned curriculum documents across the district, and she created this template to help teams link their work in a one-stop-shop. This Google Sheet was, in essence, her way of creating an organized curriculum warehouse. For free.
Sheridan Elementary Maps
In one template, there are 3 sheets: Elementary, Middle, High. In intervals and when needed, teams and departments may edit their curriculum resources, but these links are the actual items taught, and it's up to the Curriculum Directors to monitor and manage this access. We want to avoid having copy of a copy of a copy of a map!
Sheridan High School Maps
Hamilton Heights Community Schools
Jennifer Luce is the Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Data for Hamilton Heights Community Schools, in Arcadia, Indiana. Sheridan and Hamilton Heights are neighbors in terms of school districts, and when Luce's team needed a way to organize their K-12 maps, she reached out to Werkenthien for ideas. From Sheridan's example, Luce created a tool for her own district--again as a way to organize the curriculum closet.
Hamilton Heights Middle School Curriculum Maps
Pendleton Heights High School
Connie Rickert is the principal at Pendleton Heights High School, and she and I were sitting in a planning meeting when she showed me a screenshot of a curriculum warehouse (Heights' design) that she wanted to create for her high school teachers. When I saw the simplicity of the design, Rickert shared that this was created by Hamilton Heights, and when I reached out to Luce--she shared that she based her design on Sheridan's sample.
And I know you may just be excited to have your own copy that you and your teachers can use (WAHOO!) but I am equally as excited to share the story of these three leaders collaborating, sharing, and ultimately creating a tool that fills a need in so many district. So. Many. Districts!
A huge thank you to Sheridan Community Schools and Hamilton Heights School Corporation for allowing us to share their examples and then to create an editable copy for YOU to use with your teams. And, thank you to Connie Rickert for reaching out to begin with to ask, "Is there a system that you use?" and now making a version for her staff to use.
If you're like these leaders, and you've ever wanted an organized way to compile the documents--then here you go! Try this system (it's free) and editable and you can see the progress your teachers are making on their work in real-time. Keep this document in a district-owned drive, and monitor editing access, allowing revision work to happen in spring or summer. Not a curriculum director but you think this would be helpful in your team? Please share! Get this idea or document to the right hands and simplify the process.
If you know me, you know I have an affinity for pacing guide documents--ones that do more than list the standards but instead give teachers an idea of the order and timing needed, too. So, that's why this document is titled, "Sample District Pacing Guide Warehouse." I prefer pacing guides to maps--but edit away!
Change the colors; brand it for your school/team; create your own version based off of this one. That's what we all did! Just please, use a simple tool to gather and organize the content and curriculum. Allowing this information to live outside of an organized system is like throwing our good curriculum intentions in a junk drawer.
Disorganization is always a solvable problem.