27 April 2006

Insight for the Beginning Curriculum Specialist

This comment was left:

I'm looking ahead a couple of years and contemplating what sort of advanced degrees I would like to pursue, but I'm in a strange place: I had always planned on going for an MA in English Education, but I just started teaching Spanish, and I have enjoyed it more.This is where your post comes in.I was thinking of pursuing curriculum instruction instead. Can you give me a little advice on what sort of things one needs to...well, that one needs to LOVE to go into this part of the field? I'm not a fan of carrying home the loads of papers, and while I love the kids, their mental weight can be a bit much.Any advice you can offer will be much appreciated!

I thought I'd post my response here:

Keep in mind that I more or less stumbled into the Curriculum part of my job, so I don't know that I'm the best resource for how to properly go about things, but here are some things that I have learned are necessary for one's "toolkit":

  • Working with adults is a real challenge. As a teacher, when students did things that were inappropriate, defiant, or naive, I always knew it was because they were just kids. That's a lot easier to work with versus adults (ostensibly "professionals") who pull the same stunts. Be ready to give lots of tough love.
  • There are politics to navigate. Any recommendations you have are at such a grand level that you can't help but tread on someone else's program. You also really have to be able to work within the cultures of all the buildings in a district, understanding all the various quirks that go along with that. Be patient---it takes a very long time to build the kind of relationships necessary to make things run like a well-oiled machine.
  • Just as in the classroom, you need to be passionate, creative, and a good self-manager. It is up to you to do the research and reading that classroom teachers don't have time for---but who need the information and understanding. You will likely be the only "expert" in your district in terms of subject matter, best practices, and educational policy. Take lots of time to read and reflect.
  • Be ready to jump in and help. Go to classrooms and model lessons. If a teacher has had it "up to here" with a class or students, take them for a day or two. Is there a developing teacher leader in a building who needs time to mentor someone else? Volunteer to cover their class for a morning. Get out of the office and into buildings as much as possible, even if it is just to stop in and say "Hi" and smile. Don't underestimate the power of simple things like thank you notes on postcards or pencils. Show your staff at every opportunity (admins, too) how much they are valued by you.

The bottom line here is simply---do you believe that all children in our public schools deserve to have a high-quality education? If you do, then curriculum is a great way to support that. Do the work that teachers need (e.g. alignment, mapping...) so that they have the time and headspace to focus on what's most important: kids.

I plan to take my own advice as I meet with the supe this morning. More on that later...

1 comment:

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

You sound like a goddess, alright-- "take the teacher's class when she's had it up to here?" I bow to you.

If I ever did get a graduate degree in education, I would do curriculum and instruction-- it's what I find most interesting. Kudos to you.