Friday, August 04, 2006

Buying the Wheel

From the LA Times:
As a young teacher, Kristen Bowers toiled night after night, struggling to grade tests and come up with innovative teaching materials for her English courses at South Hills High School in West Covina.

"I remember thinking, 'Can somebody just invent something so I can have a life?' " said the 32-year old San Dimas resident.


Since posting her guides on, a new, EBay-like website that allows educators to post their work online, Bowers has seen her course materials fly off the site.

Indeed, my impression has always been that teachers have to - or, at least, good teachers will - dedicate altogether too much time to making sure they've got good plans for the next day's lessons. And while my experience is also that teachers tend to like to control their own curriculum - there are a lot of Type A personalities in the field of education - there seems to be an enormous potential for increased efficiency here.

I've always found it totally appalling to see teachers designing curriculum from scratch, since the implication of that activity must be that either 1) in decades and decades of teaching, really good curriculum has yet to be developed for a particular purpose or 2) there's really good curriculum out there, but teachers don't know how to acquire it. I mean, sure, teachers will always want an element of flexibility - but are we really so hard-pressed for educational resources that we often have to start from the ground floor?

This being a political site, my political question is this: is the state of affairs that this new online store for lesson plans aims to rectify the result of public failure to devote adequate resources to supporting teachers, or is it that teachers, as a rule, just prefer to make up their own lesson plans? Or, a third option I can think of - is a lack of widely utilized lesson plans an unintended consequence of pushes for increased teacher autonomy? Are we just too wary of the government getting involved in our classrooms?

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