Entrenched in my mind is a simple quote from the first administrator I collaborated with, “Students will aim as high as the bar you set.”
A clearly articulated curriculum should address all facets of the child. While academic development should be a primary focus, outlining major outcome expectations within content areas, it is imperative that life and social skill development round out the curriculum. Being well-educated is more than just the recitation of facts or the ability to derive meaning from some abstract verse in literature. While essential tools, they are but springboards for interpreting and addressing the world around them. Curricula need to maximize individual student potential. Curricula should provide opportunities for students to interact socially, develop meaningful relationships, capitalize on dissent in opinions to encourage meaningful debate, and foster critical thinking skills through exploration and problem solving. Simply put, we need to set the bar high or we aim for mediocrity.
As it stands, I have not been exposed to what I view as an ideal curriculum. I sincerely applaud the efforts that have been made to align our district goals to ISBE Learning Standards. Common learning expectations provide a solid foundation from which to derive instruction. In my mind, however, that is but a baseline for what needs to be accomplished. My views on curriculum best align with progressivism in that we need to know the “whole child”. In doing so, we can discover a child’s true potential.
Through candid discussion and a genuine acknowledgement of the learner as a person with passions, fears, faults, and beliefs of their own we can capitalize on the bond that’s created and the teachable moments that manifest as a result (“Curriculum ideologies”, p.71). I truly believe that building strong, mutually respectful relationships with each student is the key to unlocking a student’s potential. Extrinsic motivation only goes so far. Providing that child with the desire to succeed and the self-efficacy to do so is a powerful tool. Pride in oneself and knowing you can achieve beyond what is expected enables students to take risks they may not regularly take. And when a child knows you have their back and are ready to catch them in they fall, they won’t just reach for the bar, they’ll jump.