Reading Response, Week 2

     At the school in which I teach, we don’t have a curriculum, a set of standards or a scope and sequence.  We are a ‘teaching’ school, and are home to many student teachers, interns, and observers, all who are constantly asking about how we make choices about what to teach to our transit population.  I typically say that we don’t have a curriculum, which we follow common core, and I choose topics based on other textbooks or EngageNY.   

       Upon reflection, what I mean is what the book defines as what a curriculum is NOT.  What I mean is we don’t have a collection of books, fixed ideas, and a set of content standards that teachers must cover ( Brown and Knowles, 2007).  Although this is not what a curriculum is, having resources, textbooks and a scope and sequence would be excellent and would make my life easier. 

           Brown and Knowles define a curriculum as the total experiences of students at a school.  A curriculum is the students learning and gaining access to the process, interpreting and making connections to information.  A curriculum should permeate life and engage students in thinking about their world (Brown and Knowles, 2007). 

           This part of the chapter stuck with me the most because it something that I struggle with every single day of my career.  This year, my school focused heavily on inquiry and I ran three months of PD focusing on how to use inquiry in the special education classroom.  I try to integrate curriculum with a philosophy that is student centered and ask students about issues that concern them.  We focus on making learning relevant, meaningful and hands on, at the same time as following the state grade level standards.  However, much of my time and effort is spent finding resources, ideas, and activities that are meaningful and appropriate for my students.  This might be worksheets, but then enlarged or activities, but they might need to be read to students.  I feel as if Brown and Knowles make a lot of great points, if your school is already set up with the core standards, then you can move on to always having student centered learning.  On a daily basis though, this is something I have not always found possible.

 

   I know I could create sticky experiences in my room or “learning experiences that give students a powerful sense of the key concepts involved and to which subsequent concepts and vocabulary could be used” (Ardito et. al 2015).  In college, we learned about the cycle of weathering, erosion and deposition in an elementary science class.  After we took place in direct learning, we also were asked to create a children’s book about the process.  I still have mine because it may get published one day.  Today, in order for experiential learning to take place on many levels (Ardito et. al 2015), learning needs to be applied.  For example, in cross curricular teaching, we are learning about communities in social studies, reading, writing and answering questions about them in ELA, making a large map of our current community with a partner grade, and mapping habitats, or animal communities in science.  Students were able to apply the vocabulary they learned in the various subjects to choosing an animal and then creating a map.  There were obviously guidelines to encourage the students and scaffold the task, but this was a sticky experiences because it gave students a finished product which they could be proud of that demonstrated their knowledge of key concepts, like using a compass or a map key. 

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito

      Theresa,

      I continually learn from your sharing about the uniqueness of your learning environment. In some ways, I imagine it could be challenging and frustrating, but in other ways, I imagine it could be freeing and one that allows for a lot of thoughtfulness and creativity.

      But you touch upon a really interesting point when you say:

          Upon reflection, what I mean is what the book defines as what a curriculum is NOT.  What I mean is we don’t have a collection of books, fixed ideas, and a set of content standards that teachers must cover ( Brown and Knowles, 2007).  Although this is not what a curriculum is, having resources, textbooks and a scope and sequence would be excellent and would make my life easier. 

      How do we balance our desire to deeply connect with and mentor our students while still having a reasonable set of demands as teachers?
       

      What do you think?

      • Theresa Connelly
        Theresa Connelly

        I think that what needs to happen in an education setting is something like that in our general lives- meet our basic needs and then we can develop further from there.  All individuals need food, water, clothing, and shelter.  All teachers need an end goal, an idea of where they are leading their students before we can engage all learners, differentiate all materials, scaffold cross curricular lessons, and allow students to develop their learning in a more social way.  All educators want to connect, mentor, educate, and lead their students in a positive light, or else we would not have become educators.  However, when the daily lessons don't have structure, there is no overarching themes, no time to team plan, and no idea what the end of the year is supposed to look like, our basic needs are not met and we strive to find the structure.  Thus, we can not connect as deeply or foster learning environments as well, because the time and effort is spent on trivial things. 

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