This is the sixth year we've used our science texts so we're due for new books next year. Assuming, of course, that there's money in the budget to pay for them. We've been told that they're in the budget, but you can guess what will be the first thing cut when the cutting begins.
And of course some nitwit will write a letter to the editor bemoaning the fact that we buy new books - Outrageious! Ridiculous! Information hasn't changed any! Why do we need books! What a waste of money! (I am not kidding here - it happens every year.)
Do you have any idea what a book looks like after six years of seventh graders have slung it in and out of lockers, tossed it on the floor, flung it in backpacks, and goodness knows what else?
Still, the books we use now have held up pretty well, yet will become almost useless next year when our new standards go into place. Simply put, about half of what I currently teach will be moved to 8th grade, some will go to 6th, and a lot of the 8th grade curriculum will come down to 7th. If we don't get new books about the only idea we've come up with is to have a class set of each grade level and mix and match as we go through the year. Not ideal, but workable.
And then there's the fact that our entire plant unit, which is in our current standards and will be in our new standards, is not found in any of the books used at the middle school level. We spend about six weeks every year with the books in the lockers and pull information from all sorts of outside sources.
Our district, apparently, selects textbooks a bit differently than some as they teachers actually select them, not someone sitting in central office who doesn't live eat and breathe standards day in and day out like we do. What this means is that the various publishers come to town, rent a hotel conference room, lay out a big buffet (free food is an important component here), does a big pitch on Why Our Product Is Your Best Choice, hands out some cool door prizes (free stuff, gift cards, you name it), and of course the swag...lots and lots of free samples.
We live for free samples.
Mrs. Standards made a comment in all the workshops we taught on the new standards this summer that every single one of us should go to these events, not only so we make a good decision on what we end up with, but so we can get the free stuff. We are, after all, living in fear of not having new material for our new curriculum, but if we have enough of these freebies, we'll at least have something to work with.
So, last night Mrs. Eagle and I went downtown to The Big Fancy Hotel, mooched at the buffet, sat through the presentation, and got a huge bag of free stuff. We walked in, were pointed out the middle school table and told to take a pile of samples.
We sat down and flipped open the student book and took a look at the table of contents.
"Oh my gosh," said Mrs. Eagle. "They actually have everything we'll be teaching...even plants."
We were impressed. The book was smaller (and lighter in weight) than what we currently use. They essentially cut out everything we won't be teaching with the new standards. This is a huge improvement as our current book is big, bulky, and we don't use half of the chapters. The standards were all over the place, the section review questions were designed with Bloom's in mind, and it had all the STEM stuff we need (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).
We also discovered that it has a companion workbook/book that is written at 2-3 grade levels below what the book is written at - instant differentiation! We loved this because it will really help the spec ed kids we teach as well as our lower readers, many of whom are completely lost when it comes to reading our book.
Technology was all over the place - pre-made PowerPoints, video quizzes, labs, you name it. Considering that we're going to have to teach some of the 8th grade content this year (squeezing in the stuff the kids will miss when the standards change) some of the free CD's and DVD's will be a big help. We'll be able to utilize some of the free stuff to teach this content, and that may give us a chance to test drive some of it.
All in all, we had a good time, got some neat stuff, and although we didn't win a door prize we were just tickled with what we did get.
Oh yeah, and the buffet rocked.