Note: Parts of this post first appeared in my book, Exhausted.
Do you make your own clothes? Do you grow most of your own food? Did you build the car your drive? Not me. Those things are time-consuming, I don’t know how to do any of them, and I can go somewhere and buy all of them for less than I can make them (especially when you factor in the costs of inevitable mistakes).
Have you ever designed your own science unit? Do you make your own writing rubrics? Write your own tests? Ever create your own worksheets? Why?
Once upon a time, people did have to make their own clothes and grow their own food. And once upon a time, teachers did have to create their own instructional materials. They don’t have to anymore. Times change. And one of the biggest changes to education in the last twenty years was the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by most states.
It’s safe to say that the Common Core wouldn’t exist without Bill Gates’s money and influence. Gates once participated in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute, and spoke about his efforts to promote the Common Core:
“If [states] have two [sets of standards] they’re comparing, they ought to probably pick something in common because, to some degree, this is an area where, if you do have commonality, it’s like an electrical plug, you get more free market competition. Scale is good for free market competition.”
Scale is also good for teachers looking to spend less time making stuff.
Since nearly every state, even those that have nominally rejected the CCSS, has essentially the same learning expectations, there is now a mountain of available resources that align with the content educators are required to teach. Publishers have benefitted from the standards (as have sellers on Teachers Pay Teachers) because they can now sell to an entire nation of educators, not just those in their own states. Almost all of the online sites I use with my students did not exist before the Common Core State Standards.
No matter what you think of the Common Core or the motives of Bill and Melinda Gates and corporate publishers, every teacher should take advantage of the opportunity the standards provide to create less. There is almost never a good reason to spend your most precious resource making content anymore. Somebody somewhere has already invested the time and mental capital to do so. Take advantage of it, and spend your energies elsewhere.
The first place to start is your district-adopted curriculum. As much as teachers might resent being handed a program and told to use it, your district is doing you a favor when they do so.
To read more on this topic, check out this article: Expertise, Experience, and Ed Reform
I don’t love being told what (or sometimes, how) to teach. I resent the declining autonomy teachers have over the curriculum. But I’m also a realist and a pragmatist. I know that just because I create something does not make it better. I also know that when my district tells me what to teach and provides me the materials to use, they are freeing up hours of my time that I would have used locating or creating instructional materials. I can use that time for more important things. Stop looking for better lessons. Teach the ones your district paid for. Use your energy to bring life to them, not to create whole new units.
If your district hasn’t approved a curriculum, and you’re left to find lessons on your own, then hop on the Internet. Thanks to widely adopted standards like the Common Core and the NGSS, you’ll find no dearth of content. Don’t recreate the wheel. Use what someone else has already made.
Finally, If creating is really important to you — if it’s one of the main reasons you went into teaching — then go for it. Create as much as you want. Sell your stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers. There’s nothing wrong with creating content. Some people love to do it. The rest of us benefit from these creators’ work.
Just don’t complain about working 50-hour weeks.
Nobody is making you. There is no need to create yet another lesson on friction or another personal narrative rubric (I recommend a single point rubric, incidentally). That’s your choice. Recognize it as such. And if cutting hours off your workweek is a priority for you, then stop using your precious time making stuff that already exists.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can do fewer things better, check out Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Workweek Club. You’ll get new tips every week and access to a ton of resources to help you cut back without sacrificing effectiveness. In fact, prioritizing your time will help you be a better teacher. It’s great stuff!
All of the articles in this series:
Links to the 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club are affiliate links.