When You HATE Your Curriculum

primary, teacher, teaching, classroom, education, curriculums, don't like the curriculum, I hate my curriculum, how to still be myself as a teacher, I can't teach the curriculum perfectly, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, Teacher Toni, joy

Well, hello there, my dear, sweet teacher friend. And welcome back! I took a quick breather there to make sure Joyful Teacher Academy started as smoothly as it possibly could. And wow, what a wonderful experience. I know that some of you enrolled in the course. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting me, and investing in what I have to share. It means so, so much to me. If you missed enrollment, we’ll be opening that again later on this year. If you’d like to join the waitlist to be the first to know about the next open enrollment, you can sign up HERE. Today, we’re going to talk about what to do when you hate your curriculum.

Before we dive deep in today’s content, I want to ask you a favor. I show up here each week to serve and encourage you. And I’ve decided it’s time to give our podcast a new name. As I was preparing for Joyful Teacher Academy, I realized that the number one thing I hope to spread to other teachers is joy. And I want our name to reflect that.

We’re Getting a New Name!

So I came up with a couple of names that I like, and I would love for you to vote on them or to input your own idea. HERE is a quick survey where you can vote or insert your own name idea. But I would love for that name to reflect this idea of joy. That will be open for a few weeks. And if you come up with a name that really sparks my interest, I’ll add it to the voting list.

With that, let’s get to today’s topic: what to do when you hate your curriculum. And when I say curriculum, I mean the programs that you are required to use in your classroom by your district or your school. This is a huge problem that I’m seeing across the board. So many teachers are stressed, they’re dreading going to work because of these big bad curriculums. And today, I want to show you that we can beat this big bad wolf. We can be that smart little pig who knows how to overcome its power.

Mindset Shift

I’ve never had so many new things in all of my years of teaching. New things sound great. But actually, it can be stressful and overwhelming. Who would have thought that having all these new learning materials can make us feel so stressed, so overwhelmed. But this is one of the results of the pandemic and new funding. It almost feels like we’re shackled down and there’s no room in our days to ever fit anything that we feel is important. It’s stealing our teacher joy.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve struggled with that this year because not only do I have three new curriculums, but I’m at a brand-new school with the highest expectations that I’ve ever worked under. But here is what has helped me to get through, and I believe it can help you as well. This is a mindset shift that I had to make – something that I had to really sit and meditate about and understand and start to believe. And that is that new curriculum, it will come, and it will go. Ask any veteran teacher. But you are the constant that is needed.

You Are the Difference Maker

You’re what cannot be replaced, and you are what our children need the most. You are the difference maker in the equation.

And this can help you overcome these feelings of overwhelm about all this new material that you have to deal with. So let’s realize that although the year seems to be extra stressful, this is just part of what we do. But we have to hold on to joy. We have to strive for clarity and focus so that we can do what we came here to do: teach and mold each little piece of the future that is sitting in our classrooms. Remember, these things come and go. And you, my friend, are the constant that our students need.

I have three little reminders that can help you focus on what’s important and get you through these difficult feelings. Some of this advice has come from me seeking help from those people that encourage me. I’m at a great place and a great mindset right now that has helped me keep moving forward despite these three new curriculums that at one point were causing me to cry every night.

Curriculum Reminder #1 – You’ll Never Do It Perfectly

Reminder number one is that you’ll never do it perfectly. So don’t even make that your goal. One of the Module One lessons of Joyful Teacher Academy is where I cover this joy killer called perfectionism. And I want to share a little bit of that here with you. Perfectionism keeps us from even getting started. It keeps us from making any progress at all.

And for some reason, we believe that those who hand us this curriculum, expect us to do it perfectly. Now most administrators do say they want you to do it with fidelity. But fidelity means that you do it consistently. And you take the core of the program and make sure you cover those core ideas. Fidelity does not mean perfect. No one is perfect. When you were hired for your position, no one expected you to do everything right. And the same goes for these new curriculums.

We put perfectionism on our own plate. We have thoughts like, “I can’t do this if I can’t do it perfectly,” or “I’m gonna fail when I do this, because I don’t know how to do it exactly the way it should be done.”

Stop those negative thoughts. Do not let them take over. Perfectionism is a lie. No one is perfect. And deep down, you know that.

You don’t expect your students to be perfect in any area. Stop aiming for it for yourself. Take that new curriculum, do it the best that you can while keeping your mental health intact, and accept that you cannot do it perfectly.

Curriculum Reminder #2 – You Are Still You

Now you may not be dealing with perfectionism, and that may not be adding to your plate of stress. Maybe instead you feel that this new curriculum is stealing away your personality, the unique things about you as a teacher. If that applies to you, let me remind you of this. You are still you, no matter the curriculum.

The hard part is that most curriculums are pretty much scripted. And you have to say certain things at certain times, and what a mess that is. We feel like this steals away our own teaching strategies and the way that we do things. But really, it doesn’t. That is our negative thinking telling us that, because we can still put our own twist on any curriculum that is set in front of us.

How I Added My Own Spin

We have a new phonics curriculum, and I really like it, but I wanted to add a little something to it to make it more engaging for my kids. So I took those word lists and I play Beat the Baby, Beat the Granny, Beat the Cupid, all of those spelling games that I created.

And the whole time I was worried about my principal observing this because it’s not part of the curriculum. It’s something that I created that I wanted to use. Well, my new principal is the former first grade teacher. When she became the principal, I took over her position. So no one knows the standards and the needs of first graders quite like her.

So, she came in to observe me playing Beat the Baby during the time I was supposed to be teaching the phonics curriculum. That’s what’s on my schedule. And I actually am teaching it but in a different way.

I expected some negative feedback. But she said, “Toni, I love the way you’ve taken this new curriculum, and you’ve added engagement. You’ve added to it without taking away the core idea, and that is to get these phonics skills across.”

I Can Still Be Me!

Talk about having a mindset shift that day. Wow, I was relieved. And I was happy to know that I can still be me, I can still have fun with my students, as long as I’m covering what the curriculum is asking. The sequence of learning in the curriculum is research-based to be what students need. So as long as I’m keeping that core thought that I want to cover this, it’s great to know that I can have some flexibility, make it engaging, and have my principal’s support.

But just know that you can still add your own personality to your teaching, whether that is by adding movement, or singing songs that tie in to the content. Add your own kick to it. Follow the core recipe of the curriculum, then add your own spices to make it tastier and fun for your students. You still have your personality, your creativity, your unique contributions. Those things can shine through despite whatever they give you to teach with.

Curriculum Reminder #3 – No One Truly Knows What You Do

And finally, here is the best piece of advice that I have. It came from a wonderful friend of mine who has actually been on the podcast. Miss Grigsby, shout out to you. I was really struggling with one of the curriculums that I have to teach this year. She asked me, “Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself? Because at the end of the day, no one is in here watching what you do all the time.”

Wow, that was powerful to me. And that is where I really changed my thinking. So let me ask you, do you have a teacher babysitter? Is there someone in your room constantly that knows everything that you do to make sure you are following this curriculum?

I doubt it, friend. No one truly knows what you do but you and your students. One of the wonderful parts of this career is that when you close your door, it’s all you it’s all you. Your lesson plans may need to reflect something. And you may have to follow this curriculum to make things work and to do what your district is asking. But you know what’s best for your students, you know their needs more than anyone. And at the end of the day, you can make the decisions that are needed.

No One is Watching to See if You’re Perfect

Maybe you really just want to dump the whole thing, but you’re not able. That’s how I feel even now, but I just do my best with it. And I remind myself daily that no one is watching to make sure that I’m perfect at this. But truly, I’m making the best decisions for my students, the ones that no one else can make. You still have the freedom to shut your door and do what’s best for your kids. You just have to realize that you still have that power. No matter how much pressure you feel from administrators, from curriculums, from anything else, you are still in control. Do what’s best for your kids and what is best for you.

So to wrap all this up, let me tell you when your curriculum is stealing your joy, reclaim your ground. Remember that no one can do it perfectly. Know that you are still you, and any curriculum can reflect your unique personality and your goals. And maybe the most important reminder of all, no one knows what you do. We are still in control.

Bonus Curriculum Reminder

And just as a bonus reminder, let me say passionate teachers are in short supply. I said during the Bye, Bye Burnout live webinar that you cannot Amazon Prime passionate teachers. They’re not out there. Your district needs you. Here you are learning and growing and seeking support. That’s awesome. You are the kind of teacher every student deserves. And at the end of the day, we have more power than we believe, because teachers are leaving in droves. You are irreplaceable to your school and your district.

My dear beautiful teacher, if you’re struggling with these new curriculums, everything’s new this year, just hang tight. Do your best with it. And don’t forget why you are here. You’re not here to prove anything to your administrators or to be perfect. You are here to make a difference in the lives of children. Stay grounded in your purpose and keep on going.

And if you have time in your busy day, please take the survey about the new name for the podcast. Maybe you have a teacher friend that needs to hear this as well. Have you had this chat with a coworker about how much your curriculum is driving you crazy and they were totally feeling the same way? Send this to them and you can give them the gift of some encouragement and support.

Have a fabulous rest of your day. And as always, until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.



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