Many years ago, when my father was alive and teaching, I remember him telling me for no particular reason, “if you go into education, never throw anything away.” When I asked what he meant, he mumbled something about having to rewrite curriculum. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, and being the typical teen, didn’t care either. But, I went into education.
During my second year of teaching, I was asked to help design the curriculum for 8th grade pre-algebra. A colleague and I worked very hard, reviewing textbooks, developing objectives, designing units, and building assessments. At the end of several months of work, work of which we were proud and of which our math colleagues approved, the curriculum director decided that the time wasn’t quite right to revise the curriculum after all. We threw away our work, disgusted at the massive amount of time we wasted.
During my fourth year of teaching I was asked to design the curriculum for 8th grade pre-algebra. I embarked on the tedious task again, this time alone. I worked very hard, reviewing textbooks, developing objectives, designing units, and building assessments. As I worked on this project, I remembered my dad’s advice, “if you go into education, never throw anything away.” I knew then what he meant.
This semester, during my 25th year of teaching, I was asked to serve on a committee to develop the Academic Plan for my College and my Department at the University. After 25 years in education, I’ve learned that there are many tasks that administrators feel are very important, while faculty feel they are essentially useless. Developing an “academic plan” is one of those tasks. I understand that it’s important to reflect on what we’ve done and occasionally re-load our vision of where we want to go. But I’ve yet to see one of these “academic plans” really make a difference. As part of my responsibility on this committee, I was asked to write our Education Department Goals. So today I searched through my computer hard drive, located the 2009 Strategic Plan, plucked out of that plan our proposed objectives, revised them briefly, and submitted them as our 2013 Education Department Goals.
It took about 20 years, but I finally heeded my father’s advice, “if you go into education, never throw anything away.”