Restrictive and Limited Academic Curriculum
It is time for an honest Q&A discussion!
Q: What happens when a student obviously understands the math lessons well enough to consistently demonstrate mastery on almost every assessment the teacher provides?
A: We give them “extra” work to keep them busy. We label them gifted and group them with other gifted children. We call them good students and present them with honors and rewards by way of grades, certificates, or other forms of extrinsic recognition. By the way, none of these address the student’s need to set their own learning goals.
Q: What happens when that same student says she/he is bored or wants to move ahead in the math book or use the next grade level math book?
A: We tell them they can’t go ahead in the book because we can’t accommodate a personal curriculum. We tell them they have to stay in their grade level book because we can’t teach them the next grade level standards yet. We give them extra worksheets hoping they’ll just stop asking. By the way, none of these address the student’s need to set their own learning goals.
Q: What do we do with a student that comes to our classroom already knowing or very quickly grasping most of the grade level standards?
A: We may recommend them as gifted. We may do nothing. We may ask them to help others in the classroom that don’t understand. We may reward them with good grades. By the way, none of these address the student’s need to set their own learning goals.
Q: What do we do with the student who needs to spend more time on particular standards and less time on others?
A: We typically tell them it’s their job to catch up or to accept a poor grade. Sometimes we identify them as “at-risk” or Tier 2 or Tier 3 kids and refer them for intervention. Sometimes we offer them a little extra time or extra help but we don’t usually allow them time beyond a normal grading period. We have to move on and provide a final grade on their report card. By the way, none of these address the student’s need to set their own learning goals.
Q: How much classroom instructional time is spent on art, music, drama, play, or physical activity?
A: Occasionally or if time permits. It depends upon the teacher and the school schedule. It depends whether or not their are specific teachers for these classes. Sometimes more frequently if it is a district priority. By the way, most students are left with very little time to explore creativity, imagination, or physical activity; all known to have a direct impact on learning.
Q: How do we individualize and plan curriculum to meet the needs of every student?
A: We typically don’t with the exception of students who may be identified as gifted or special needs. With these students, we still adhere to their assigned grade level curriculum, without much deviation. By the way, all the other students are heaped into their respective grade level baskets leaving them dependent upon those in charge to determine their learning goals.
Q: How do we demonstrate integration of thought and connectedness across the various curricular disciplines?
A: Typically we don’t. Teachers are not trained that way. It is a difficult practice to integrate “subjects” without time for planning in that manner. Grade level curriculum, textbook reliance, and publisher assessments are not designed with integration of thought across “so-called” disciplines. It is easier for everyone involved to teach discrete and separate subjects with accompanying resources. Quite literally, grade level curriculum comes in its own box and it is meant to stay that way. By the way, this practice does not help students to think critically, be innovative or creative, or be in charge of their own learning. It does help them to complete workbook pages, worksheets, and tests. It helps them to find the right answers and to be a “good” student.
Limiting my list to seven questions was a difficult task as I have several others swirling around in my mind. For the sake of time, and your willingness to read this blog, I decided to stop at lucky seven.
The answers to the above questions are based on my 35 years of direct observation, implementation, and forced adherence to the system’s rigid and restrictive practices. I wrote about these and other practices in my book Learning Unleashed Re-imagining and Re-purposing Our Schools and I write this blog to further examine, question and encourage others to consider options to the one-size fits all schooling model.
As long as we continue to hold young people hostage in a very unyielding, archaic, and compulsory schooling model that does not really serve the children it claims to serve, I will advocate on their behalf. Fortunately, there are many others who realize this blatant educational injustice and are not afraid to question the status quo. You may be one, so please share my blog.
Others cling to their rigid ideology of schooling, specifically public schooling, claiming that it is the best hope we have to produce well-educated citizens ready to enter the work force. In theory, that may be true. In actuality, it is debatable.
Next in this series: Teacher Centered Instruction coming soon!