One Step at a Time: Introducing Curriculum Initiatives
By Kelby Zenor, Rubicon International featuring Jean Levis, Greenwood School
Every school has their own culture and history to be taken into account when introducing or reinvigorating curriculum initiatives. We met Jean Levis, from Greenwood School in Florida, this past April when her team came to the Rubicon Leadership Institute. She spent three days with us planning curriculum writing goals, reviewing curriculum, and creating protocols to take back to support her own process. Here is her story 6 months after their time with us in Portland…
Heading back to Florida after the workshop ended, she decided their first big step was to establish a curriculum committee. (This is a small team of four people who will help guide the process for introducing the curriculum initiative.) This team worked together to create goals and objectives as well as engaging activities to share with their entire curriculum writing team, which included all teachers.
1. The Curriculum Quilt: Setting the Stage
During a staff meeting at the beginning of the year the Curriculum Committee kicked off with a short presentation introducing everyone’s new curriculum initiative. The team clearly framed the purpose of mapping curriculum through a quilt metaphor.
We looked at those examples of quilts and I asked about patterns. ``What was uniform, what was textured, colored, stitched, symmetrical, asymmetrical, artistic?`` Then we talked about how (curriculum) maps can have discipline, uniformity, pattern, and at the same time they show diversity, richness, texture, artistry and the autonomy/personality of the map creator. This presentation really only took about 15 minutes, and really got people thinking of maps as something other than a time-consuming chore.
They ended their conversation with the Priorities for our Lively Maps, which was really well received by their colleagues, and gave purpose and clarity to the initiative! Priorities included:
- Streamline the template to promote clarity and ease of use. (Make your work easier.)
- Increase uniformity in the format/ syntax of our maps. (Make the maps clearer.)
- Create a template model to remind us of the ways in which maps need to be uniform.
- Increase creativity, richness, texture, liveliness with: more vivid, specific description of activities/assessments and attachments that display the full multi-sensory and multi-disciplinary nature of our work.
2. Capturing the Curriculum: Faculty Feedback
The team at Greenwood purposefully built in “buy-in” opportunities as they had a whole school of teachers to get on board with the new curriculum priorities. As we all know, getting others excited and motivated to try something new can be challenging unless you clearly show them the significant value of that change.
The Curriculum Committee met and planned a full hour staff meeting aimed at eliciting feedback (toward buy-in) from faculty (See meeting plan and slides linked below. These provided focus for discussion). The meeting generated lots of discussion, although a good bit of it aired problems and complaints.
Opening up the floor for feedback can be daunting, but when done in a constructive way feedback allows participants to share their opinions, both positive and critical. This can be an important step in getting staff on board with any new initiative.
3. Developing an Identity
Through this process Jean and the Curriculum Committee have created an identity for the initiative which give it some character (similar to another schools cohort called Next Chapter Ninjas).
I think we are calling our overall curriculum initiative Capturing the Curriculum, which leaves lots of room for jokes about me chasing the curriculum around the school, or how this will take more than the science teacher's butterfly net, etc.
4. Next Steps
Always look to the future! Having clear objectives helps promote buy-in by showing the longevity of the process. Long term thinking may initially take up more of your time. The addition of a committee, buy in meetings, and changes to the structure of how things are done will be well worth the extra time they take. This invested time will solidify quality results and a sure footing for years to come:
- The curriculum will be readable.
- More teachers will participate as their concerns will have been addressed.
- Everyone will be trained to use the tool.
- We will all understand the ultimate goal.
- Teachers will be more apt to keep things up-to-date in a well thought out template for development.
Having the Priorities for mapping established and actionable next steps will ensure Greenwood’s curriculum process thrives. Jean shares an example of one of their more immediate next steps.
We hope to create a style guide by early October, and I need to make some changes in our template probably this month or early next month so that teachers are not spinning their wheels doing unnecessary work.
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