The required reading for my new class this week was this:
Clandinin, D.J., & Connelly, F. M. (1992). Teacher as curriculum maker. In P. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of Curriculum Research, pp. 363-301. New York: MacMillan.
My typical way of working through an article is to read it a first time, highlighting anything that strikes me as important, or striking either because I agree with it or disagree with it. When I finish this, I tend to reread the parts that I had highlighted. I try to see patterns in the statements I found important. In longer readings, such as this one, I have found using a tool like Wordle helps me to better organize my thoughts. I input all these highlighted passages, removing any variations of the words curriculum and teacher as they overwhelmed the final product. Here is my initial Wordle image:
As you can see, there are some words that just jump off the page: materials, subject matter, students, learner, project, schools, classrooms… These words convey for me a very closed and traditional definition of the word “curriculum.” This image tells me that teaching is about students following a prescribed program in order to learn a particular subject matter. As I mentioned above, this image represents both things I agree with AND disagree with.
I have been teaching for 10 years now. When I came out of university and got my first full-time teaching job, I photocopied as many pre-made programs as I could find. My shelves were full of workbooks, textbooks, binders full of worksheets, and anything else pre-made that I could get my hands on. Why did I do that? Because that is what I remember my teachers having and that is what my cooperating teachers had during my field placements and practice teaching experiences. I admit, my first year, I used these things just to survive. I quickly learned, however, that it wasn’t all about being prepared, having the perfect lesson/unit plan, or what the kids could show me by following “the program.” The real learning happened in the interactions between the programs and lessons. It is truly a wonder if those students learned anything at all that year!
So, I wanted to see what would come out when I entered only those statements that I actually believed in:
Learners, stories, experience, together, interaction, constructed. These are words that more strongly fit my belief about the role of curriculum in the classroom. Yes, in Saskatchewan, we have common curriculum stating outcomes for students. However, we also have freedom to construct the journey to these outcomes through interactions with our students. Danielle Stinson explains this in her blog post Teacher as Curriculum Maker:
“Through the use of Outcomes and Indicators teachers are given a guideline of “Big Ideas” that they are to meet through their teaching, there are not prescribed units that they must follow anymore, allowing the teacher to become a maker of curriculum that meets both the interests and learning levels of their students.”
I was always amazed by the teachers who could plan weeks or even months at a time. I have difficulty planning more than a day in advance. When people ask why, my answer is always: “Well, it all depends on what happens today with the kids. They determine what we do tomorrow as much as I do!” I always have that end goal in mind, but it is the journey, the living, the creating the HOW that is the strong interaction of the four commonplaces: teacher, learning, subject matter and milieu.