Over the course of the last six months, I’ve been collaborating with my administrative team, brainstorming, conversing, drafting, preparing to provide our district with a realistic process, an action plan for curriculum reform, a way to guide our teachers’ as they plod up the steep hill that leads to developing and deepening our students’ understanding. Even though most teachers would agree that rote learning will not prepare students for transfer, the dusty curriculum binders, lesson plans and classroom observations tell a different story. And, the more I think, question and reflect, the more I realize that it’s not just our students who are masters at being compliant and complacent; our teachers are as well. And dare I say it, principals too.
That’s my “IT”. That’s my reason for asking my colleagues to think purposefully about curricular planning and school reform. That’s my “WHY” for asking teachers to trust in the UbD process and know that this isn’t a “prescriptive method” that will fade with time. It’s not a plan. It’s not a thing to lose or throw away. It’s not a fad or a quick fix. This is going to be a way of operating on a daily basis. Like eating healthy, it must be a lifestyle change.
That’s why I want to remove the copier from every school’s faculty room. That’s why I want to celebrate teachers who are rebelling against the norm and coaching their students from the sidelines. That’s why I want to offer incentives to teachers who are pushing students to solve a local or global problem and then giving them the resources and tools to share their voice with the WORLD via a podcast, a blog, etc. And if they don’t have the tools to truly address an outside audience, why can’t students pretend they are an author, a politician, a life fitness coach, an intern: “Imagine you are a writer for an academic journal, and you must write a literary analysis, assessing Kate Chopin’s use of motif in her short stories to provide insight into the New England region.”
So, over the course of the next year, as we begin to change the conversation and the culture, my hope is that teachers truly THINK about what their students already know, need to know and should know for long term success. My hope is that teachers focus on the STUDENTS and their learning rather than unpacking every standard and speaking faster to “cover” it all. My hope is that teachers have the “ah-ha” moment and realize that teaching is coaching. It’s helping students come to an understanding of important ideas and then supporting them as they transfer their learning to new situations. It’s formally assessing them after the game not during practice. (BTW- Why are we grading formative assessments? Why are students receiving grades for attending class, being prepared and participating? And we wonder why our students are so grade driven.)
Overall, moving into the 18-19 school year, my hope is that ALL of us UNDERSTAND that we must get comfortable being uncomfortable. We must demand that our DESIGNS and methods foster ongoing inquiry. This is going to take an environment that allows for reflecting. It’s going to take a lot of time. It’s going to take patience. It’s going to take a lot of sweat, tears and heart.
But, isn’t it worth it? Aren’t our students worth it?