Report from Louisiana: End of Summer, New Curriculum, Back to School

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Shortest summer ever.  I report back to work Thursday with a series of workshops and on our new high school ELA curriculum and students report back to class August 2.  When I first started teaching twenty years ago, my first report date was August 25; seems like it backs up every single year.  I suppose year-round school is the ultimate goal but nobody is saying that.

At any rate, I’ve made the most of my summer with a couple of little trips and tending to some chores that get neglected during the school year.  I’ve read some books – probably the one that has had the most profound effect on me was Beautiful Boy by David Scheff, which tells the story of his son’s battle against addiction. I can’t imagine what it took to write this book.  Raw pain on every page, but such a beautiful story of love.

What I should have been reading is all of the new material in our new ELA curriculum. Most of the selections we are now required to teach are things I’ve never read or have not read in thirty years.  I am now required to teach, for example, chapter one of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is about the effect of pesticides on the environment; also on our required list is “Address to Congress on Women’s Suffrage” by Carrie Chapman Catt, excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, “Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda, countless speeches and essays, poems I haven’t read since college…and I’ve got to find a way to make this relevant and meaningful to 10th grade inner city students.

I’m a little concerned.

But, I like a good challenge, so I’m sure it will be fine.

What I find disturbing, as a teacher, is the scripted lessons that come with this new curriculum; I suppose this might be helpful to a brand new teacher, but for years we’ve been told that all students learn differently – I’ve been to countless workshops on various learning styles. Now, apparently all kids learn the same and from the same teacher script.  Thank you, Common Core.

Well, I have three more days to procrastinate and I won’t worry about that now. For the next three days, it’s still summer.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.