Post Reply 
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Oops I forgot to...
11-26-2013, 09:22 AM
Post: #1
Oops I forgot to...
When I started teaching in the early 1990s, I was stunned to discover people could drink so much coffee. I had never seen so many dirty coffee mugs, sometimes stacked four storeys high, all along the sink. When I was on dishwasher stacking duty, there was one mug I always looked out for- it’s widely available now, but this was the first time I had encountered it. It was the mug that has a Roy Lichtenstein, pop arty cartoon weeping woman exclaiming “Oops, I forgot to have children!” I was fascinated by this- it seemed funny, like, ha ha, how could you forget such a major thing, and also tragic, like, well, that’s all over then. No chance of fixing that up.

I was reminded of this mug last year, when designing a unit of work with a group of teachers. The unit was all finished when I had my cartoon bubble moment: “Oops, I forgot to negotiate the curriculum.” After years of inculcation into a culture of curriculum design based on articulating mandated outcomes and texts, it had come to feel entirely natural to not even consider negotiating curricular content and pedagogical choices with students. I mentally revisited all our planning meetings, and realised the language of curriculum negotiation was completely absent from our encounters. Like forgetting to have children, this seemed a monumental oversight. How on earth could we have forgotten this? No one could fix it, either. We just didn’t do it. Not only did we not have students at our meetings, or talk with them about the unit beforehand, but we didn’t even write opportunities for negotiation into the planned activities.

If curriculum design is understood as the imagining of future subjects, what does it mean that teachers and bureaucrats are the only ones doing the imagining? Borrowing Boomer’s words, has accountability to a system replaced accountability to our students, and also accountability to our own professional knowledge and integrity? I had my Australian Curriculum: English content descriptors in the unit, but where had the students gone? What kind of collective forgetting had taken place? I even remember when, pre the first Curriculum and Standards Framework, we negotiated what are now called “outcomes” with students- “What would you like to get out of this?” “What do you need to learn about [insert idea]?” “Where could we go with this?” And what was suggested was allowed to be vague, not set in concrete.

But those were the bad old, messy old days, when we didn’t have quality teaching for quality outcomes, before defined standards! Today we’ve been told by the experts exactly where we’re going, and we’ll just take the kids along with us- that must have been what I was thinking when designing that unit. I was being efficient, compliant- a new sort of professional.

Perhaps it is not too late, and just by talking and sharing some of these ideas (I’m really sorry I missed Workshop Two, so apologies if this is all pretty redundant) we can begin to complicate the notion of what curriculum is. Hope to see you at Workshop Three!

PS: Twenty years later there is now a version of that mug that has the woman not weeping, but opening a bottle of champagne. OMG, I forgot to have children. Yippee! Times have certainly changed! But maybe there is a weird synergy with curriculum design there- it’s all about us, not the kids?
Quote this message in a reply
11-28-2013, 09:26 AM
Post: #2
RE: Oops I forgot to...
I almost posted before the workshop, then decided against it. The public forum, you know. Made me a bit nervous. The question I was going to ask Lucy was how how they negotiated the curriculum with the students, when they actually did so. I got my answer at the workshop (it was lovely to meet you, Lucy!) -drafting, consulting with student representatives, ongoing collaboration over a range of issues- outcomes, response types & options.

But after the workshop, it seemed like a good idea to keep the conversation going, so I thought I'd just make the observation that students do negotiate the curriculum, whether or not we engage them formally in doing so. Chanie (Stock) and I worked together to come up with a variety of different ways students could respond creatively to "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time". We gave them 6 different options - fanfiction, a song, a Twitter or Instagram account from the perspective of one of the characters, a book show discussing the novel, a speech by the author. (Though Garth Boomer's point about "teachers who still retain... significant, ultimate powers ...pretend[ing] to divest themselves of power by giving limited decision-making opportunities to the children" bites uncomfortably close to the bone here, when I review the task.)
But the the best response I had in my group came from a student who rejected all the options given and decided to mimic a facebook conversation, with several characters interacting online following a particular incident. It was fantastic, a really complex piece of writing that expanded the voice of several minor characters in the novel in an authentic way, and a positive way for this student to negotiate the curriculum. I'm sure we've all seen examples of how students can negotiate the curriculum in less positive ways than this!
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
11-28-2013, 10:44 AM
Post: #3
RE: Oops I forgot to...
(11-28-2013 09:26 AM)joeharlowe Wrote:  I almost posted before the workshop, then decided against it. The public forum, you know. Made me a bit nervous. The question I was going to ask Lucy was how how they negotiated the curriculum with the students, when they actually did so. I got my answer at the workshop (it was lovely to meet you, Lucy!) -drafting, consulting with student representatives, ongoing collaboration over a range of issues- outcomes, response types & options.

But after the workshop, it seemed like a good idea to keep the conversation going, so I thought I'd just make the observation that students do negotiate the curriculum, whether or not we engage them formally in doing so. Chanie (Stock) and I worked together to come up with a variety of different ways students could respond creatively to "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time". We gave them 6 different options - fanfiction, a song, a Twitter or Instagram account from the perspective of one of the characters, a book show discussing the novel, a speech by the author. (Though Garth Boomer's point about "teachers who still retain... significant, ultimate powers ...pretend[ing] to divest themselves of power by giving limited decision-making opportunities to the children" bites uncomfortably close to the bone here, when I review the task.)
But the the best response I had in my group came from a student who rejected all the options given and decided to mimic a facebook conversation, with several characters interacting online following a particular incident. It was fantastic, a really complex piece of writing that expanded the voice of several minor characters in the novel in an authentic way, and a positive way for this student to negotiate the curriculum. I'm sure we've all seen examples of how students can negotiate the curriculum in less positive ways than this!

Hi Joe- what you wrote here made me wonder about whether this kind of negotiation you describe is under threat from software driven English teaching, where kids log on and work through set and monitored exercises (choosing things, yes, maybe, but less able to break outside of those given choices)- I would love to hear about exciting software that reminded teachers and students of the potential for negotiation, that people may well be using.

Also thinking about how we were talking about negotiating assessment, and assessment criteria, and about how the language of the content descriptors of the Australian Curriculum seems so horrible when you imagine sharing it with school students. It feels like ventriloquising weasel words to me- or it did when I was teaching pre service teachers and introducing them to it! Or do others view this as a valid and useful professional language which is translated for child-friendly interactions like negotiating assessment criteria? Or is it pretty much disregarded- just a layer of fluff that fits whatever we do?
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 


Forum Jump:


User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)

Contact Us | stella2.0 | Return to Top | Return to Content | Lite (Archive) Mode | RSS Syndication