In my seven years of teaching, no topic has come up in my history departments as much as vertical alignment. Middle school history is super challenging in this regard because our curriculum doesn’t overlap as much as other subjects. That being said, I would like to make the case that vertical alignment is one of the most important things we can do as history teachers.
First, the students do not care about vertical alignment. In fact, they do not care at all about most things we think about as teachers. They are mostly ego-centric beings swimming in a sea of hormones. Given this fact, why should we even care about vertical alignment. By not being a unified front, the students have shown their weakness…or at least a potential weakness. Imagine if our students all came together and acted as one to get what they wanted. How scary would that be? If we as a history team can use the same academic vocabulary, teach concepts in similar ways, and have common goals for the learning goals of our students, isn’t that more powerful than simply doing what we want? If we expect to change the culture and how our students learn, isn’t it better to work together with other professionals toward a common goal?
Second, the kids have summer break in between grades. Maybe that’s overly simplistic. Kids struggle to retain things they learn from year to year. If our history departments teach as lone wolves, it’s going to be increasingly harder to get the students back in the swing of things. Humans are creature of habit, so if they have a comfort level doing things a certain way, why would you not continue things that effective?
The thing about vertical alignment is that we all are opinionated. We all think our way is the best. But what if “our” personal preferences aren’t as good for the team? Does the kid’s learning mean more or does our personal preference mean more? It’s uncomfortable to compromise, but before you protest with vertical alignment think of the kids.