Chariots of Fire!

I was listening to Heidi Hayes Jacobs today describe the phases of curriculum mapping.  The word curriculum stirs up different images for me: provincial guidebooks full of outcomes and expectations for students; a course syllabus at any given school; checklists of items that I am legally required to teach, to cover.  I know first hand that teachers feel the pressure of a crowded curriculum. I have heard the lament: “How will I ever get through all of this?” I will admit that the word curriculum had become tarnished for me. In my mind, I had relegated it to dealing with content, content and more content. In other words, boring, outdated teaching where laminated daybooks resurface every September in a quest to cover the curriculum. SIGH.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs voiced a fresh perspective for me about curriculum  and I am delighted to say that the word has taken on a new dimension for me! The word has been restored to its true identity.  This is particularly important as my province is in the process of transitioning to new curriculum for learners that will be in place for September 2016 for K-9.

Word Origin – Curriculum

C19: from Latin: course, from currere to run
In fact, Michael Quinine in his Blog, World Wide Words, states that the word curriculum originally described a course that chariots would use to run on.  Cinching the deal for a new spin on an old word was Quinine’s reference to curricle -a light, fast carriage- in Northanger Abbey, written by my favourite author, Jane Austen.  As a side note: I could argue that you could take any word, attach it to an Austen reference and I would agree wholeheartedly. 🙂
I know that I run the risk of sounding like “Captain Obvious” when I write that I landed on the notion of a course to run. Curriculum is a course, a track, a pathway, in a race to a finish line.  The finish line is the future for our students.  The race is for students to run in their light, fast curricle.  Curriculum is NOT a race for teachers to run and finish in a Herculean yearly effort.
 When I consider curriculum as a course to run on it becomes imperative that I map the way. I am mapping the course for my students to traverse upon it individually. Where is the pathway going?  When there is a bump in the road, how will I respond?  How will I know that students are reaching the milestones along the way?  Is Elizabeth travelling in a sleek curricle while Darcy is loaded down with an Ox and a cart?  How will I respond to their needs on the course or how will I help them to respond? How will I know that the race is over and we are at the finish line?  How will I celebrate at the finish line and who can join in to share in our accomplishments?
Hayes Jacobs used an empty chair as a visual metaphor: the chair as a reminder of who owns the learning. According to John Hattie Visible Learning and Teaching occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.  I will employ a lovely, Austen-like curricle for my visual cue when curriculum mapping with a student perched atop and running the race mapped out before them.

 

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