I thought that now would be a good time to share a little background information on the district and school where I teach, because this greatly influences why I do the things I do. I feel privileged to work for a district that places a huge emphasis an authentic learning and critical thinking have seen many changes in our instructional policies over the past several years. However, these changes have not come without cost. One of the most controversial decisions was to more or less remove textbooks from the classroom. The district now uses the allocated money for a large variety of instructional resources.
This decision did not drastically impact me, because I had already fallen in love with guided reading and writing, our math textbooks were absolutely horrible, and our social studies textbooks weren't even remotely close to the standards, so I wasn't using them a lot in the first place. However, it has been very interesting over the past several years to discover some of the surprising pros and cons of not using textbooks. I think the biggest advantage for me is that I feel free to teach each lesson the way I feel will best benefit my students. It allows me to get creative and to try many new ideas. As I said before, I am a huge fan of reading, writing, and math workshop, and I love the flexibility I have in using a variety of strategies and lessons. I think the biggest disadvantage is that it is very difficult for new teachers to get started, because they often feel lost with the only real guides being the state standards and curriculum map. I would love to see us have some type of mentor program to help with this issue. We already have frequently collaborative planning, but that doesn't seem to help. Another consideration is the huge amount of time it takes planning each day, because it can certainly be overwhelming at times. Another one of my concerns is that I do think there is some value to being able to use a textbook, and I can certainly say that my students have NO CLUE how to use one. To help with this, I've started sparingly using some of our old science textbooks to teach a few of our science standards. It cracks me up, because it is such a treat to my students whenever I break the books out. They get so excited about it, and I remember HATING using them when I was a student.
Whether we like it or not, it certainly has been an interesting process.