Nicole Beuckelare is a friend and colleague of mine. She teaches at the secondary school we feed into. Nicole and I shared some ideas last week at #TLLP14 in Toronto so I asked her if she was willing to write for me. She has a great vision for curriculum, not as a driving force but as a vehicle for learning. Enjoy!
After almost a dozen years in the education system at the Secondary level, I am starting to notice a pattern. The frustrations of teachers, young and old, focused around the expectations of our teaching profession. Governments change, policies are adapted and teachers feel overwhelmed by the “new” directives they are given every year.
Since the beginning of my teaching career in 2002, I have been encouraged every year to focus on something “new”. Every year a new topic, appearing in isolation. From the years of TRIBES, Literacy, Student Success, Numeracy, Differentiated Instruction, Assessment and Evaluation, Technology Integration, Pathways, etc. I have watched teachers around me constantly struggle to integrate all the initiatives and their Curriculum into the already busy school year.
Having been lucky enough to move into a Student Success position early in my career I tend to think of education in the “Big Picture” format. All of these wonderful initiatives exist as ways to support Curriculum and Student Growth. However, from a classroom teachers perspective, I can see how without the “Big Picture” idea, all of these initiatives may appear like add ons.
I’ve witnessed resistance with the most obvious educational concepts. TRIBES, because who has time for fun and games? Literacy, because isn’t that the English teacher’s job? Numeracy, shouldn’t the Math teachers worry about that? Pathways, isn’t that why we have a Guidance department?
Now, if you aren’t aware, the four topics I just discussed form the 4 pillars of Student Success. Literacy, Numeracy, Pathways and a Culture of Caring/Community. I don’t know about you, but when I became a teacher I did it to challenge students to be educated (literacy, numeracy), self aware (pathways) members of society (culture of caring/community). As a teacher, I want to inspire students to be the best that they can be. These 4 Pillars are essential to the development of all our students!
I believe in “Big Picture”, I want to encourage others to revisit why they became teachers. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t for the curriculum, technology or assessment practices. I went into teaching to inspire students, to encourage them to become life-long learners. Regardless of the subject we teach, I believe in this statement “The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives”.
I’m starting to wonder if the way we market these programs to teachers is way off base? I understand that as teachers we need times to refresh our thinking, to enhance our practice and to make change in our students best interests, but maybe there is a better way to approach this huge task. How about a focus on the whole student? I can’t remember the last time PD on any of the above topics was begun with a “Big Picture”, the idea that it all fits together.
Take a moment and visualize this…our Curriculum is a vehicle, it needs the support of Literacy and Numeracy to keep it rolling along, it needs a driver in the driver’s seat who is self aware and knowledgeable about the Pathways available to them, it needs a path to drive on that encourages character development and a culture of caring. With all of these parts, our students will constantly be moving, some faster than others, and at times maybe in reverse, but without each piece there would be no movement at all!
I challenge you to think about your personal views of education. Why do you teach? What do you want for your students? What is your metaphor for “Big Picture”?