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03 May Leading Change Through Mapping – From Thomas Guides to GPS Navigation

By Anne Egan and Lorin Helbling, Blessed Sacrament Parish School and Cathedral Catholic High School

Leading Change Through Mapping – From Thomas Guides to GPS Navigation

Growing up in a small, self-contained community on Long Island in New York, map reading was not a necessity. I am embarrassed to admit that it was not until my arrival in Long Beach, California during the mid-1980’s that out of sheer necessity I finally had to learn to read a map. Thomas Guide, a spiral bound volume containing various maps of the greater Long Beach area, was a constant companion in my car. An invaluable tool during my early years of teaching, it enabled me to locate and travel to every substitute teaching assignment. I would never have been able to find my way without it.

The Curriculum Map

As teachers, we all have a road map of sorts to guide our curriculum – a scope and sequence detailing the content and the order in which it will be delivered. In my early days, it was a very long outline, produced with a word processing computer program. Infrequently referred to, a paper copy was stored in a binder in the curriculum director’s office.

The art and science of teaching continues to evolve. Standards have been identified and teachers are accountable for student outcomes. As we learn more about brain function, methodologies change. So how do we know if what we are doing is of greatest benefit to our students? How do we know if our students are being properly prepared for the next level? How do we know what our colleagues are doing? That’s where curriculum mapping comes in.

Curriculum mapping is not a noun. It’s a verb! School leaders and teachers communicate actual learning within a framework for school-wide improvement through collaborative and reflective practice. In order to be successful, it requires shared goals, clear roles within a growth mind-set; for most schools, it’s a cultural change with learning at the core. It means moving away from the “old way of doing things” and for some this is very scary and threatening. It will take a committed leadership team with a vision and clearly articulated goals to lead change successfully.

Some Lessons Learned While Leading Change Through Mapping:
  • All in leadership must understand this not a program but a culture change. Accountability for professional expectations and behavior must be clearly articulated
  • The leadership team must have a clear understanding of the curriculum mapping process along with well-defined clearly articulated goals
  • The faculty must be able to articulate the goals and understand it is not just another program or a means of recording curricular scope and sequence in an electronic format – it is reflective practice that guides all decision making
  • Curriculum mapping is a team effort – as stake-holders all administrators, counselors, administrative support teams, and faculty members are expected to actively participate
  • Too much time discussing what and how to go about curriculum mapping rather than actually doing it can give recalcitrant faculty more time to dig in their heels
  • Lack of consistent calendared time can undermine the process
  • When new programs are added, be able to clearly articulate how they connect to those already in place
It’s All About the Journey

Thomas Guides are still available, but improving technology has given rise to GPS navigation systems installed in today’s vehicles and mobile devices. Print scopes and sequences have also given way to online curriculum maps, a framework for communicating school-wide learning and identifying areas needed for improvement.

It’s time to plan your route, round up your passengers, and set up your caravan for the journey.  Leave the workshop with travel tips for safe arrival at your destination:

Who’s doing the driving? Do all drivers have directions? Are some still using old Thomas Guides to chart their route and others set up with GPS? How will you assign passengers to vehicles? Will drivers and passengers self-select? What is the estimated arrival time?

Read other blogs from our conferences and summits!

Anne Egan

Anne Egan has been serving as Principal at Blessed Sacrament Parish School in San Diego since 2014. Anne’s teaching and leadership career was shaped at her alma mater, Archbishop Mitty High School, in San Jose, CA, where she taught AP and college prep US history, AP and college prep American Government while chairing the Social Studies Department.

Her passion for collaborative leadership, developing new courses and coaching emerged during her twenty years at AMHS, 1979-1999. She moved to San Diego with her husband and daughter and ultimately found new curriculum leadership opportunities at University of San Diego High School and later, Cathedral Catholic High School.

From 2000-2014, Anne taught Economics and Government, served as Social Science Department Chair, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction at CCHS. Now, as BSPS Principal, Anne is charged with developing and leading a new integrated school model within the diocese of San Diego, merging Blessed Sacrament with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, scheduled for completion in 2018.

Lorin Helbling

Lorin Helbling is celebrating her 20th year as an educator. As a faculty member for the past 18 years at University of San Diego High School/Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, CA she has taught Introduction to Science, Biology, Oceanography, Anatomy and Physiology, Earth Science, AVID, and Academic Coaching. From 2001 – 2015 Lorin served as Science Department Chairperson and was a member of the Leadership Team during the implementation of Curriculum Mapping.

Always in pursuit of both new ways to deliver quality education to students and personal growth, Lorin will be transitioning in the fall to Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction at Blessed Sacrament Parish School in San Diego, CA.

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