[Response to Chapter 10 in Burke’s “The English Teacher’s Companion”]
Before I jump into the “curriculum” specifics, I have to admit I laughed when reading the section about “determining your needs” (268). In my annotated remarks, I put, “Plan ahead! Especially when it comes to the copy machine, ha!” I say this jokingly, but seriously at the same time. My CT usually plans by week and copies when she needs to. Though I know I can’t make a whole year’s worth of copies at once, I DO know that when I’m a teacher, I’m not waiting until the last minute. It seems that the copy room is like a war zone: all of the teachers are on attack! What I mean by this is I have learned very quickly to take advantage of an empty copy room. And not be too nice, or else I will be standing in that room forever letting people cut in before me! For this reason, as Burke suggests, having a structured plan is essential in constructing a structured (yet flexible) curriculum. (After all, the little things, like copying, all add up to what you put into your units/lessons!)
Though it is common sense (for most, I hope) that objectives/rationale be clear so that students see connections to the real world, I liked that Burke addressed that point in this chapter (267). This especially has become an imperative part of what I envision my classroom/lessons to include because the student I interviewed said how much she wished teachers did this more. I believe that students will be more engaged if they understand why they are doing something and how it will help them – now and down the road.
I also felt that Burke hinted upon the need for multiple measures of assessment to determine if our curriculum worked (280). I know that states require state mandated tests that focus on the norm; however, I think there are so many other ways to test what students have learned and if our curriculum was successful (especially since our students are multiliterate) than solely using multiple choice tests. Furthermore, Burke mentions that he uses a section of his class time at the end to see what questions students have (274). This reflection/free write is one that I definitely plan on including in my own classroom. With that said, the point is to not so much focus on right versus wrong, but to get the students writing, to get them thinking about what they have learned, and to get them asking questions (which ultimately helps to create more meaningful connections).
I have to agree: “It is a real challenge to achieve a balance between the formal or structured curriculum and the one that emerges as our course unfolds daily” (269). Yet it is a challenge that I look forward to because it means that there are unlimited answers to “try-out” as we embark on different journeys with our increasingly diverse students.