It's Not the Curriculum, It's Us

Scott McLeod suggests that we might be the problem with education.  Blaming the problem of low-level “kill and drill” education on the test is no excuse:

Our prevalent instructional model that emphasizes low-level, decontextualized, factual recall was dominant long before ‘the tests.’ Our challenges of providing higher-order thinking experiences, opportunities for authentic collaboration, and real-world connectedness existed long before the No Child Left Behind Act.

I don’t think Scott means to suggest that there aren’t problems with The Test.  However, he does ask us to take a look at ourselves and not use the test as an excuse to absolve us of a responsiblility to provide high quality education to our students.

I experience the same kind of excuses in regards to the Open Court Reading Program.  Whether or not we like the reading program, having it in our classes does not allow us to turn off that part of our responsiblity that requires an engaging curriculum and provides opportunity for higher level thinking and twenty-first century skills.

9 Responses to It's Not the Curriculum, It's Us

  1. I think the same thing goes for not blaming it on a bad textbook etc etc, but it can sometimes be a choice between putting your energy into fighting the system (e.g. campaigning for a better one or showing students the difference between a real class and one based on the test or textbook) or trying desperately to make the system work- often a difficult choice!

  2. I think it’s the difference between your private and public life. After school I can influence textbook decisions by choosing who to vote for, getting on the textbook committee, and writing letters to politicians. However, I owe it to my students not to enter the classroom bitter or angry and just going through the motions if I don’t like the series I’m teaching.

  3. A great post–something we all need to honestly reflect on. I wonder if it has taken us (as teachers) this long to really figure out how to work within this new NCLB system–realize what is mandated and figure out how to create great learning environments for kids that meet the mandates without being places of low-level skill and drill. I am seeing more thinking like this–teachers realizing that we do have the responsibility to create great learning environments. I wonder if we just had the wind knocked out of us for a while–trying to figure out the new parameters?

  4. @Franki

    I think the point of Scott’s original post was that it isn’t that NCLB knocked us out but that we already knocked out and used NCLB as an excuse for it.

    I’ve used video production within the context of our mandated reading program in my own classroom, others use blogging, play production, social justice, project based learning, etc. There are examples of thinking outside of the box while staying within it.

  5. I know and agree. I guess I always forget that this was prevalent. For teachers i know who never taught in a skill/drill type of way, it took them a little while to figure out how to think outside the box while staying in the new box created by NCLB. I think what NCLB did was create a public pressure to teach in a low level/test-taking way that wasn’t there before so that was a new thing to work through for lots of people. I think good teachers are always smart at making sure they work to create great learning environments, no matter what the constraints.

  6. “I think the point of Scott’s original post was that it isn’t that NCLB knocked us out but that we already knocked out and used NCLB as an excuse for it.”

    I love that quote, because I think you hit the nail right on the head. I hate to say it, but I think there are a lot (I mean A LOT) of teachers in the profession because they LIKED the way we taught and learned in the past, and they want to do it that way.

    Then there are those that don’t want to take responsibility–ever. And if ever a place existed where it was easy to direct blame, it would be schools. Students, parents, administrators, other teachers, school boards, mandated tests, state budgets–you name it.

    Rare, it seems, is the teacher who stands up and says, “I got this one.”

  7. I’m not even sure that teachers like the way they were taught, it’s just that it’s never occurred to them that there is any other way.

  8. Mathew
    “having it in our classes does not allow us to turn off that part of our responsiblity that requires an engaging curriculum and provides opportunity for higher level thinking and twenty-first century skills.”

    I’m thinking that the “it” in the above quote could also apply to the new Web 2.0 technology. We can’t think that simply plunking kids down in front of a computer and down loading the new these new tools will do the trick. We still need to teach higher level thinking and the requisit6e skills to help our kids prepare for an unknown future.

  9. There are always ways to engage and make things interesting even with the dullest of curriculums. I loved a Fountas lecture I went to years ago at Lesley where she explained how to implement Guided Reading even if you had to stick with your Basal Reading program as mandated by your district. Where there is a will there is a way.

    However, I still will never forget being let into the secret stash of old math resources that teachers were hiding because the administration had been sold on the theory that you had to throw out all old math materials to get teachers to realize that the “new” system was the only way. Well it would have been the only way if we were prepared to fail the state exams. There were two major portions of the state tests for our grade level that the curriuclum manufacturers openly confessed they did not cover until later grades because they did not see the need to do so. The old texts were the only lessons we had to go from to teach our kids.

    Common sense teaches us there is no one system to do everything. I’ve yet to understand why we continue to believe we will discover one.

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