Posted on October 10, 2011
While students took the day off last Friday to begin a four-day holiday ending with Discoverers' Day, the faculty of all four grade levels (preschool through high school) did some "discovering" on their own in department or content areas to talk about curriculum.
This was new territory for MPI --bringing all teachers together to engage in thought-provoking discussion about curriculum. While previous professional development days have focused on topics such as schoolwide change, project-based learning, educational technology, and assessment, the faculty looked more deeply into the "big ideas" or essential concepts that make curriculum. Often these concepts are mistaken for topics, e.g., democracy as a concept and the three branches of U.S. government as a topic. Teachers learned more about science concepts explored in preschool through inquiry to high school science concepts in physics and biology. Then the discussions segued into thinking about thinking, that is, identifying the kinds of thinking valued in different content areas and the instructional strategies that elicit different thinking skills. Select teachers highlighted various thinking skills through a wide range of presentations from podcasting to Socratic circles using social media to multidisciplinary uses of animation to thinking routines using images. These collegial encounters within and across disciplines and across grade levels continues to prove to be the best approach to professional development. And there is a demand for more head-to-head and heart-to-heart conversations among the faculty.
The faculty viewed two stimulating TED talks, one by Heidi Heyes Jacobs on 21st century curriculum (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsUgj9_ltN8&feature=youtu.be) and the other by John Hunter on the World Peace Game (see http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game.html ).
I invite you to view these video clips so that you can understand the kinds of thinking about curriculum that we are doing as an entire school. Jacobs makes a poignant comment: Are we teaching a curriculum for the 21st century -- or are we teaching a curriculum that prepares students for the 19th century? John Hunter, an elementary classroom teacher in New York, demonstrates a keen understanding of the potential of his fourth graders as thinkers and problem-solvers. The faculty was inspired by Hunter's regard of his students. If you view this video, just think about the concepts of war and peace that his students understand.
Finally, I'd like to recommend that you read Sarah Field's latest blog entry (Sarah teaches a multiage first-and-second-grade class) called "Connecting the Dots." http://www.midpac.edu/elementary/1_2F/ You will also be inspired.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey