02 December 2011

Contemplating Curriculum

This week has seen a new task added to the "To Do" list! One of the joys and challenges of working in an International School is that we do not have a curriculum set by an external body, such as the state or federal government. Instead, the school develops its own curriculum, taking into account current research, and various publicly available curriculum documents. It's a joy, because we can really try to make sure the curriculum meets the learning needs our our particular student body. It's a challenge because it can be time consuming. Either way it's important.

Our current curriculum at East-West has been in place for about six years, so as part of our Accreditation process we are now reviewing that curriculum. First subject off the block for primary school teachers is Language Arts. This is a really interesting and useful process. To start with, it forces one to really read the current curriculum, and think about how it is working well for us (and especially for our students) and also to consider if there are some things that could be improved. While our student population is largely English Second Language learners, we have a curriculum which is based around native English speaking standards. This isn't a criticism, it's a fact. I personally believe that is a good thing. We want our students to be fluent English communicators, and having native English speaking standards definitely helps us work toward that end. It's also interesting to have a look at what other curriculum documents are saying, and seeing how they are similar and how they are different. Sometimes the differences are really just in the way the outcomes are expressed, because they ultimately mean the same thing. Sometimes the differences are quite pronounced, and students on one curriculum are learning things earlier or later than their counterparts on a different curriculum. Which is best for our students?

This week, a colleague and I started looking at the Grade 4 Language Arts curriculum, while colleagues across at other grade levels do the same thing for their grade. So far it has been really interesting to see just how much of what I have been doing this year actually addresses the curriculum really well. Hooray! I'm doing something right. We'll see what the rest of the review brings out. I'm sure there are things I'm missing, so this will help me find those gaps so I can better meet the needs of my students. It was also really good to hear the other teacher (who isn't currently teaching fourth grade but did teach it last year) identify a number of points as being important that I feel are important. Positive reinforcement is valuable for teachers as well as students.

The last time I was involved in curriculum review I dreaded it. This time, I'm enjoying it! Thanks to God for bringing me to this point, and to giving me the strength each day to serve Him by teaching my precious students, and to do all the other jobs that go along with teaching. He is good, and He is my source of strength and peace.

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