Sunday, April 19, 2009

Covering Curriculum

I sometimes feel frustrated at the pressure that is created from trying to teach the curriculum versus dealing with the realities of the classroom situation, realities which make covering the curriculum difficult or impossible.

At times, I rush through the prescribed material.

I believe that, for teaching to be effective, it needs to be student-centered and not curriculum-centered.

I read a post by Angela Powell that describes the pressure to teach the curriculum.
The opportunity for students to actively construct knowledge MUST take precedence over the need to cover curriculum.
Angela suggests that teachers need to slow the pace of their instruction. Teachers need to take the time to have conversations with their students.
Learning takes place through personal involvement and discussion, and attending this conference shamed me into realizing that I simply MUST let my students TALK.
As a teacher, I cannot afford to skip this step, cutting off children's discussions in an attempt to impart a few more facts before the hour is up. I am now focused on going narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow, and I am consciously slowing down my instruction so that kids can share more.
I have heard teachers proclaim that they do not care whether students like them or not. I believe that it is important for the students to like you on a personal level. I believe that, for learning to occur, something called transference needs to exist. One of the best ways to facilitate learning, and to alleviate discipline problems, is to get to know the students as people. Along with conversing with the students, another effective way to nurture interpersonal relationships is by participating in extra-curricular activities.

Another reason to slow down the pace of teaching is to allow the students ample time to digest the material.
I am choosing to forgo the whirlwind review of an entire page of problems so I can allow my students to actively reflect on the strategies they used for the first few.
Angela makes the interesting observation that teaching is getting more difficult for a reason.
It seems like teaching is getting harder because it IS: we’re attempting to reach more kids than we used to, and address a wider variety of issues and needs. It’s critical for educators to understand the magnitude of what we’re attempting without letting the results overwhelm us. Low-performing students from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ and those with learning problems are no longer siphoned off into special education classrooms while we wait for them to drop out. As much as we bemoan the pitfalls of NCLB, in our daily practice we are in fact attempting to leave no child behind—not even the ones who WANT to be left to their own devices, or who don’t have the cognitive or emotional capabilities to try.
Angela concludes her essay by averring that the only way to overcome the difficulties associated with teaching is for the teacher to have a personal vision of success and to for the teacher to remain committed to this vision.
All of the other issues on the table pale in comparison to this single truth. The commitment to a personal vision is what ensures success and brings both the teacher and student back into the classroom each day. And while it’s critical to create buy-in among students, the concept of a personal vision must originate within the teacher.


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