It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Curriculum Maker Inquiry February 26, 2011

Filed under: Class reflections,Myself as curriculum maker — Jamie @ 11:59 am

One of the major assignments for my current M.Ed. class is a Curriculum Maker Inquiry.  The assignment was done in parts.  We were to tell three-four stories of experiences that had an impact on us at the time.  I have blogged about these experiences.  The first story I shared was a poem that I wrote about my experience having to quit gymnastics due to a back injury.  The second story I shared was about a teacher that had a big impact on me.  The third story was about a teacher librarian that did something wonderful for me.  The fourth story was about two interactions I had with students during my internship.  You can follow the links to read more.

The next part of this assignment was to reread these stories and examine them in terms of the four curriculum commonplaces: teacher, subject matter, milieu and student.  The following is what came out of this examination for me.

When I examine the places where these stories took place, three of the four of them are places where I really felt were “home”. They were places where I felt most comfortable. They are places where I spent a lot of time. They are places where the people I knew the best and cared about the most were. The only one that doesn’t really fit in is the hospital. And looking back on the story, thinking about it, rereading it… I think that the role of the hospital was minor compared to the role of the gym. So, the milieu of my most important stories seems to be generally important places in my history.

When I look at the teachers in these stories, I have a hard time really pinpointing who the teachers were, exactly… It seems to me that the teachers were everyone and everything about these situations. The people obviously played a huge role in my learning. They taught me good things and they taught me bad things… They taught me by their words, their actions and their reactions. The situations themselves and life taught me things. They pushed me, challenged me, and forced me to think outside the box. I also think that because of these challenges, I taught myself a thing or two as well.

In the teacher commonplace, you may have noticed that I wrote a lot about what those teachers taught ME. I am certain that other people may have learned a thing or two from these situations too. However, since they are my memories, and my stories, it is almost illogical for me to focus on what others learned. I can say that in my gym story, my parents probably learned how to change their focus from the gym to other things in life. My coach learned how to let go of the gymnast in me and support me outside the gym. In the library story, my librarian might have learned how to work around teachers that have a difference of opinion. There are others, but how can I say for sure if this was new knowledge for them? I can only be certain of what I learned. So, the true student in these stories was me.

When I look through this list, I notice the LACK of traditional school subject areas. Not one of my stories includes things I learned from the world of academia. All of these things have to do with my moral and personal development. These situations changed me. They changed what I believed. They changed how I looked at the world. They changed how I faced problems. That is what I learned.


So now, the next part of this curriculum maker inquiry is to look at how these stories have affected the way that I create curriculum for my students. I really wasn’t sure how to represent this learning. I did a lot of thinking about this. The only thing that really kept popping up throughout this project, and throughout this class, is MY role in my classroom. It has been about what I have learned, about what I am teaching, how I am teaching, how I am interacting with my students. So, I used a picture of myself to represent my learning and how it affects my role as curriculum maker for my students.

My Brain – My attitude truly affects the interactions I have with the world and with my students. I need to pay attention to how I approach my academic curriculum and my interactions with my students; particularly with the subject areas and with the students I find most challenging.

My Eyes – My eyes allow me to see beyond the initial interactions and impressions of my students. Many students have tough exteriors, tough home lives, tough attitudes. It is my job to see beyond these. I need to find a way to see beyond my feelings and frustrations.

My Ears – My ears allow me to listen to my students. I listen to their stories. I listen to their frustrations. I listen to their celebrations. Listening is a huge component to creating the relationship necessary with my students in order to teach them.

My Mouth – One of the most important things that I learned from revisiting my stories is that words can truly make or break a person. I need to be super careful about the things that come out of my mouth. I really have to be careful that the things I say are not off the cuff in frustration or anger, especially on days when I am tired or not feeling well. I also need to find opportunities to praise my students as much as possible.  Particularly those students who don’t often inspire praise.

My Heart – I truly believe that half of teaching is creating relationship with my students. Connecting hearts is the basis for the whole kit and caboodle (as my grandpa would say).

My Gut – Over the years, I have learned to trust my gut. It is important to listen to these feelings, even if that means sometimes forgetting about the lesson I’ve planned to talk about what needs to be addressed in the class emotionally. I need to follow my gut when I need to ignore some of the emotional things going on to get the academic stuff done too. It goes both ways. I also need to guide my students to understand the difference between a gut feeling and an emotional reaction and how to decide which feelings to follow and which to work through before reacting.

My Feet – Finally, sometimes we just need a swift kick in the butt. My students, their parents, me… We all need it sometimes.  I also use my feet to walk away from situations.  Sometimes, the best thing that we all can do when facing certain people or situations is to just walk away and find a better place to be.


What do you think? Have I missed anything? Do you have any other further suggestions? I appreciate any feedback offered! And thank you for reading.


2 Responses to “Curriculum Maker Inquiry”

  1. Milieu may simply be the home created by the people around you. The hospital may feel like safe place because you were surrounded by those you cared most about.

  2. Melissa Says:

    This is a great project! As I was reading through this entry, I found myself thinking about things in my life that have impacted me and my teaching. The colors/designs really capture attention. You have learned and expressed some very important lessons that will help both you and your future students.
    This would be a great thing to keep in a place where you can come back and look at it after you have had “one of those days” since those days will happen.
    Love the way you use a picture of yourself at the end and how you used it to highlight certain parts. I think I know what one of my future blog posts will be ~ Thanks for being inspiring!

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