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September, or Curriculum Celebrations

 September means one thing to a teacher: the beginning of a new academic year. While I may not be returning to the classroom this month, I still get excited (and a little wistful) about the "Back to School" season. Unfortunately, because I don't actually get to set up my classroom, stock up on school supplies and plan out my first week's lessons, there is no natural outlet for my educator's itch. The result is that my urges are manifest in weird ways; I start looking at reading the curriculum for fun, and I end up talking off the ears of my practicing teacher friends. I live vicariously through their accounts of their first days at school, and I hang on their every word about new pedagogical theories and approaches.

That's how I know I must be destined to teach.

Tonight I learned about The Daily 5 (mini-lessons on literacy) and how it can complement the Reading Powers, and I also learned about the Systems of Intellect (SOI) approach to developing intellectual abilities through the use of targeted assessments and training programs. I was also pointed towards BC's new curriculum, which is still in its early inception phase and currently optional in the province as they phase out the old one.

I'm not going to lie; the new curriculum (and the pretty Web 2.0 website) made me squeal just a little. It's so much more inquiry-focused and skills based (vs. content based), and far simpler to read and understand, than the old curriculum. The use of key questions and big ideas reminds me of the Understanding by Design approach to unit planning, and the core competencies offer a more balanced kind of education. In this 21st century world where information ("content") is available to everyone at the touch of a button, the emphasis should no longer be on knowing what, but knowing how. The new curriculum endeavours to build up the competencies of effective communication (how to convey information and be understood), thinking (metacognition and critical evaluation), and personal/social skills that address the issues of identity, community and responsibility. Love, love, love this!!

Of course, I come from a more recent generation of teachers that believes that the 3R's are simply not enough. My opinion is that the traditional ways of doing "school" no longer meet the needs of the 2015 learner, and to continue to plow through ten months of a year doing the same products-based, assessment-heavy, pencil-and-paper tasks is a colossal waste of time and opportunity. It is thrilling to know that the curriculum design team has tried to consider content that engages our students, and designed the curriculum to focus on learning through hands-on, interactive tasks. The play-based approach that many early childhood educators have already adopted is a solid, developmentally-appropriate and well-researched model from which it sounds like this new curriculum has taken some inspiration.

I am excited to work with this curriculum one day, and to see how it will be implemented and refined over the next few years. As Little L enters K (two summers from now), the kinks should be ironed out, and perhaps a scope-and-sequence will have been added. It's an exciting time to be a student in BC, and while I know there are educators and parents out there who look at this new curriculum with some trepidation and skepticism, I am full of hope that we may finally be reforming education in a way that prepares our kids for the future!


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