The world of education is a vast universe of options, pathways, ideas, tools, and opinions. Because of this, it is very easy to be swept away by the majority opinions of the day and loose sight of your personal values and beliefs about teaching. As a new teacher, I know it will be tremendously difficult not to get caught up in the politics of education, the debates surrounding pedagogy, the battles between “right” and “wrong” education, and pressures of the written curricula.
I have had many friends, both former and current teachers, and those not in the field of education, tell me time and again that I have chosen a career where I can never win. They tell me that teaching is more like being a social worker rather than being an educator, and that it is too much work for what you are paid. I’ve heard them complain that there are too many curricular and reporting expectations, and not enough time to really teach and make a difference. They also say that because there is so much difference in their classroom with students coming from so many backgrounds that it is often difficult to meet the needs of every student.
As I consider curriculum more, and how it has been reflected in my past and will be demonstrated in my future, many of these thoughts continue to swirl in my head. Every day I ask myself, what will MY curriculum be like? What really matters in education? Do I have the courage to teach what I believe?
Turning back to The New Teacher Book, and the many great stories in it, I found myself really connecting with a few stories as I started to assemble a visual representation of my idea of curriculum as lived:
- Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-as-usual p. 43
- Curriculum is Everything that Happens p. 163
- Teaching Controversial Content p. 199
These stories speak to many challenges that many new teachers face, like getting caught in the politics of the school, and how to approach difficult subjects. They also look at the “hidden curriculum”, that is, the curriculum that exists through the actions and environment that are created in the classroom. It is out of these ideas that I came to create a visual representation of my concept of curriculum.
I see curriculum as consisting of several layers:
- Emotional environment of the classroom, school and community: In order to really dig deep into subject material there needs to be a positive environment based on respect, compassion and kindness. Curriculum needs to include teaching the person not just the student, and introducing positive values will assist in this.
- Connected community: The classroom should be its own community, with mutual values and understanding, but should also connect beyond the classroom to understand diversity of cultures, differences, and become part of the global community. Part of the curriculum is the idea that education reaches far beyond the walls of your classroom.
- Open to the “tough stuff”: When you have a classroom that fosters a positive environment that appreciates connectedness, it’s easy to introduce and incorporate many of the things that some teachers and “old ways” of teaching often don’t. Curriculum can and should include First Nations, truthful history, race, sexuality, technology education and digital citizenship, and even how to be embrace multiple intelligences. First year teachers are often fearful of teaching these difficult topics, but must be encouraged to maintain their own beliefs of what’s important in order to help students grow.
- Teacher values and skills: In order to be a good teacher one must have more than just a degree in education. Teachers must have vision and be able to balance the needs of their students with the requirements of the written curriculum. Teachers must also have so much heart, hope, and spirit in order to really connect with their students and help them sparkle in their own way.
…the photos don’t do this project justice. You must see it in person!
I feel that it is only by incorporating all of these layers that you can really get an idea of all that curriculum needs to include. I think that everyone has a light inside of them, and that we need to surround ourselves with the hope and inspiration that will make us feel safe enough to share our light with the world. We just have to be brave enough to stand up for our beliefs and to let the light shine.
Note: I used Tagxedo to help me create my word cloud. It’s a great computer app that could have so many uses in the classroom!