Once upon a time, teachers were given a textbook, perhaps a few other resources including a grade book, and given the responsibility to determine how best to teach the content, in what order, with whatever resources, etc. Some did excellent jobs; others were journeyman teachers who plodded through the textbook one chapter at a time and bored their students in the process. I've heard stories of teachers who read the textbook to their students, which numbs my brain just thinking about it.
Over the years, reform-minded people, some
of whom were even educators, came up with ideas for "improving
teaching." Some ideas were even reasonably useful. And then one day,
one bright star came up with the idea of the teacher's edition. The
textbook itself would be the student's edition, you know, the book the
students used. And the teacher's edition would be the student textbook
but with the answers to the questions at the end of each chapter or at
the back of the book, and pointers for teaching the content. Eventually
the teacher's edition included scripts so teachers would know what to
say when. The advantage, of course, is that it would be easy for
substitute teachers, even if they were administrators, to teach on a day
if a teacher had to be absent from school.
something strange happened. Because teachers had that wonderful
teacher's edition that told them what to say and when, that gave them
the answers to the questions to the problems, that offered notes about
how to teach the content, teachers just flat out forgot that they needed
to know something about teaching to help their students learn.
you see, you could walk into any classroom in America in which teachers
clasped their teacher's editions as they prepared to teach and you
could hear a Stepfordian presentation of, well, I'm not quite sure
what. The best way to describe might be the publisher's idea of how the
content should be presented to students. Presented, not taught. And
not provided in such a way that kids might actually learn.
Now we have teachers who might have no idea what to do when in their classrooms without a teacher's edition.
are some who have broken free of the tyranny of the teacher's edition.
Long ago they managed to to release their grips on the book and
realized, some even remembered, what it was like to actually know the
content they were expected to teach, and they remembered what it felt
like to help a student through productive struggle and exert themselves
in the process of learning through discovery. And they realized it was
pretty darned fun, and that kids actually learned.
Common Core State Standards will make it hard for teachers to use a
teacher's edition. Really hard. And I celebrate that. Teachers are
waking up to a new and somewhat terrifying morning when they have not
only responsibility for teaching, but the freedom to teach in ways that
makes sense for their students.
It is my hope we will
see the eventual eradication of the teacher's edition and it is my
belief that then we will begin to see a reversal of the dumbing down of
our educators. When that happens I believe we can be more hopeful about
the educating up of our students.