Me: If the revised curriculum was an animal, what might it be?

English teacher: A squid, obscured by its own ink.

Nice response, I thought. It’s tricky to get all the parts moving together, its slippery, its inky-ness makes it hard to see what’s really going on….

The opening gambit was my ‘warm up’ attempt at recent cluster meetings around the region to lightheartedly dispel any cynicism prior to embarking on a solution-focused approach. This revised curriculum isn’t going away (no, not even if the government changes) so we need to make it work for us.

Discussions about the document – from the point of view of English departments – have been deep and wide-ranging. Essentially, we have looked at ‘what might this look like in English?’ when exploring the ‘front end’ and the ‘back end’ (more of a pantomime horse than a squid, perhaps?)

Key themes have been emerging that show synergy of thinking across the region:

  • Despite fears about compliance, paperwork and lack of time, many teachers are seeing the document as a great opportunity to step back and review what they are offering learners in English.
  • Such reviews can’t really be attempted until SMTs dedicate time and energy to helping the school community as a whole articulate the vision, principles and values of the school. There is no point in English depts. forging ahead without a clear sense of the school’s direction.
  • There has been real enthusiasm for concepts such as learning journals, student portfolios [online or paper], goal setting with students to capture students’ progress holistically and longitudinally. Especially if the responsibility for managing these falls to the students.
  • Support for less leaping from assessment to assessment in favour of an iterative skills focus across integrated, thematic units.
  • Interest in planning over five years,not one, and exploring English within a course that runs from Year 9-13, rather than as a subject to be delivered in individual year plans.

Still, legitimate concerns remain. That pesky squid just won’t go away. The ink of abstract terminology and well-intentioned pedagogies needs unpicking, unpacking and defining in a way that allows English teachers to make the curriculum real and meaningful to students, as well as themselves. And that is going to take time.

Quite possibly more than one teacher-only day…

Image source: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu

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