On the Road to Oz

cc licensed flickr photo shared by erin garrison studio

What are your thoughts and beliefs about curriculum? How do educators determine what students should learn?

I was asked to consider these question as part of a graduate course on curriculum I took last year. Throughout the course we discussed different perspectives, and, more importantly, we were asked to reflect on and uncover our own views and assumptions regarding curriculum. We explored learning theories (no connectivism, yet!), the hidden curriculum, the null curriculum, and the overt (written) curriculum to name just a few. (A good starting place to read about these concepts is Leslie Owen Wilson’s Curriculum Index.) As I was asked to reflect on these ideas – on my ideas, I realized that I had come to view many aspects of the curriculum as confining and was frustrated by the lack of flexibility I perceived.  So much so that most of what I teach at my high school is outside of the core curriculum. In fact I have invented and cobbled together the bulk of what I teach myself, and I admit I enjoy this process very much.

At the end of the course my professor challenged us to create a representation of our learning. As I sat and thought and struggled I realized I felt a little like Dorothy in Oz – exploring the world of classroom demands and the world of my curriculum ideals. I decided to step way, w-a-y  outside of my comfort zone and write and perform a spoken word (or slam) poem. I had never done anything like this before, and wish to thank my creative writing students who provided moral support and valuable criticism as I created and recreated “On the Road to Oz”. When we had our final Poetry Slam of the year (Quench Your Verse) it was obvious that I had to step up and be willing to publicly take the journey alongside my students. And so I did.

Here’s my poem (recorded at the lunchtime slam)  – a discovery of my own thoughts and feelings about curriculum. What are yours?

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9 responses to “On the Road to Oz

  1. I am totally impressed with your desire to take the bull by the horns. I am referring to your attitude to overcome confusion and unfamiliarity. I too am taking grad classes so I recognize the need to jump in head first and search for understanding but with so much content to sift through where do we begin and how do we know when we are done? As overwhelming it is, I love how you have faced the challenge…you must be an amazing teacher. Thanks for the motivation!

    • Thanks for the comment – your feedback and support are appreciated. I’m not sure I’m any closer to the answers, but I do have a many more questions now! I do love a challenge, but I know I couldn’t have face this one (a public performance) without the guidance of my students. Good luck with your grad classes!

  2. I will be following your blog for the next few weeks, you have been assigned to me for a class project for my technology class ( I am future teacher @ The University of South Alabama)
    When exploring the link to learning theories the idea, “Learning is about behaviour change”, really stuck in my mind. My Professor in this class (EDM310) Dr. Strange talks about Burp Back Education, when you talk about teaching outside the core curriculum, I see this as a rebellion to teach what the student needs, in a way they will remember. So often educators are given instructions are given to teach a test not teach so they remember the material. Your slam/poem is awesome!
    This is a link to my class blog-
    http://edm310.blogspot.com/

    • Tabitha,
      Thanks for your comments – I hadn’t heard the term “Burp Back Education” before and it made me think. I’m hoping as educators we’re steering away from ‘teach for the test’ and moving toward teach for authentic learning. One of the reasons I’ve always taught elective courses is it gives me the freedom to do that. I had a quick look at your class blog and it looks great! I’ve got a couple more blog posts in the work for mine – now I just need to find the time to write them!

  3. I’m a student at University of South Alabama. I will be following you blog and commenting on it for the next three weeks. I just read “On the Road to OZ”. I couldn’t agree more with feeling suffocated by curriculum guidelines and standardized test results. This factor sort of intimidates me because I haven’t even begun my student teaching yet. I’m really worried about finding a way to stay within the guidelines set fourth by my administration and state and still be able to show my students how to think outside of the box. I really liked the way you put your own creative touch on the presentation that you created for your master’s program. What a great poem that captured what you were going through at that time. I look forward to reading more of your work. If you have time, you can feel free to visit my blog at http://bednorzpauletteedm310.blogspot.com.

    • It is a bit of a balancing act staying true to what you believe while meet curriculum guidelines. I use these guidelines as my starting point – they get me thinking and allow me to consider the “must haves”. I have been fortunate to figure out ways to stay within the rules while pushing the boundaries. One way I do that is by keeping my parents on board – particularly if I’m doing something that might seem outside the box. Thanks for your interest in my blog! (I did have a look at yours and poked around some of the resources – thanks!)

  4. Deborah Snowden

    I will also be following your blog for the next few weeks as an assignment for Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. You can read my reflections on your blog in a post I will publish on my blog on April 3 at this URL: http://snowdendeborahedm310.blogspot.com/

    I definitely agree with your feelings that assigned curriculum is severely restricting. When I was in high school our county forced us to take standardized quarterly tests that were made up by committees. The outcome of this was that if our teachers strayed from the curriculum our grades on these tests, which counted for a sizable percentage of our total grade, would suffer. Teachers should have more control over what they teach in their classrooms.

  5. I have to agree with you about standardized testing. In British Columbia, although high stakes tests do not play as large a role as they seem to in the US, some class time is still spent on them (particularly in grades 4 and 7). Many teachers bravely refuse to let these tests steer the curriculum and many parents are now refusing to let their children write the tests. I did this with my own daughter – she has never written one of these tests and never will. My husband and I wrote a letter to the principal and were prepared to provide an alternate educational experience during the testing. Luckily, so many parents refused that the school simply had those kids go to the library during the tests. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Best of luck with your studies, and I will check out your blog.

  6. I agree with what you said about feeling stuck in only being able to teach whats on the curriculum. I believe it is necessary for us, as teachers, to step out of our comfort zone and teach in the most effective way for the students to learn and for the students to get the best education they can. It is not about what they know after they learn something necessarily, it is about how they can apply it and use it in their lives. Nice post.

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