Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Lesson as an Obstacle

So, I'm taking this class about curriculum as part of a master's degree. Besides the icy shock of being plunged back into the role of student, the experience is incredibly broadening: both horizon wise, as well as my hips in relation to how much snack food I put away while trying to complete these 1000-something word papers that keep getting thrown at me.

Anyway, inspired by this class, I've been trying to be more mindful of the metaphors we use in teaching and their effects on how we think about the profession. It's nothing surprising really, but still worth reflecting on.

The lesson as an obstacle

"I have to get through this"
"We'll go over this quickly"
"Let's just get past this part and we'll do something else"

I use these phrases in class really often, actually, or I did. Then I realized that by using those phrases I was implying (and probably believing) that my own lesson was getting in my way.

It seems strange that the activities or concepts we bring to a lesson lose their importance once they leave the 'plan' stage and get put into practice. (That's called praxis, isn't it? Educated!) But it's at that stage that they become objects- specifically, an obstacle to get on the other side of.

And our language is full of this- it's almost impossible to get away from. After all, as I am reminded nearly every class, the word curriculum comes from the latin word currerre, which means to run. Run to where? And by the time we get to high school, most of us start referring to our classes as courses. I haven't seen the movie "Race to Nowhere" yet, but I imagine it's title refers to this phenomenon as well.

The problem, I think, with this problem, is that in class, in our lessons and lesson plans, the goal is the end. And what awaits as at 'the end'? It's the test, the summative or formative or whateverative evaluation that we have to get to. But I don't believe that schools are where kids go to get tested, I've never believed that. I didn't become a teacher because of my undying passion for marking- if anything, the undying marking will the reason for my leaving the profession and following my other dream of becoming a mid-afternoon baker.

So, if schools aren't where kids go to get tested, the language indicates that school is where kids go to run. And as a teacher, that's what I teach: I teach them how to run. Not to run around the lesson, or over or under it, but to run with it- on it. The lessons aren't the obstacle, they are the track.

Question mark?

1 comment:

  1. Erin,
    Thanks for an interesting post. I am a huge fan of metaphors and believe they are essential for us to make sense of complex systems - like schools. I like the idea that the curriculum represents a track (I sometimes think landscape) that learners run around and explore. And that the teacher's role is to act as a guide or monitor. Nice work!