From the book How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith (as described by Brainpickings!)
THIS IS IT! THIS is my overarching CURRICULUM for my 6th graders. Be an Explorer of the World--wherever you are in the world at any given moment.
If I can help kids see and approach their wide world DAILY through this lens of discovery, observation, questioning, pattern-seeking and curiosity...I will have done the job I believe in my heart to be an educator's highest calling.
Kids become emboldened and enlightened when they get the chance to experience this type of learning and it changes kids at their core for the rest of their lives. They become lifelong learners... and lifelong learners change the world!
The detailed, lengthy and often void-of-life curriculum/standards that educators get handed each school year are uninspiring and too detailed; they are lacking in the spirit of the things shared above that are CENTRAL to inspired learning and living!
I've always been struck by how LIFELESS the curriculum/standards are and how we educators have no hand in crafting them! So many pages and so many numbers and letters and all in fine print! I would make them simpler, broader, and have them include more about the WORLD outside the school doors--community knowledge. Thus, each community/area/region would have differences in their curriculum. Kids should be able to walk outside the school doors and talk about things that surround them; problem-solve and take action as needed. Could they do that now?! No, because they're rarely outside and they're not given time to explore, discover, and look for patterns when they are outside. This takes time and the curriculum and tests rob us of that time...they rob the KIDS of that joyous time.
The HIGH-STAKES tests in place, and largely accepted and not avidly discussed/debated/acted on by teachers, are the PROBLEM. A high stakes test tied to any curriculum necessitates teacher (and thus student) energies are focused at whatever is on the test. Instead of thinking and learning outside the box, lid open, guided by broad curriculum AND student interests, the tests keep the kids inside the box focused on the long list of things, working toward right answers. Kids are doing what they're told instead of thinking of questions and seeking patterns, answers, and expressing and creating.
When all is said and done, if your district funding or ranking, or your own pay is determined by student scores on a long and mysterious high-stakes test written by people somewhere else in the world making lots of money off the kids, by the way, then the TEST will be what's RUNNING the SHOW.
What RUNS our schools? The high-stakes tests and curriculum/standards do. Period. That needs to be flipped on its head! Kids' well-being, learning, and opportunities for leadership and choice should rule. That should be the pulse we're all running off of, not the pulse of the test.
The high-stakes tests are responsible for something else I see as a problem: keeping the status quo of often boring classes offered at the high school level; classes that are not chosen by kids (were they asked what classes they'd LIKE to TAKE?) and often not tied to real world jobs/disciplines. If I could craft my own set of classes for kids to take at high school, there would be MUCH MORE CHOICE, a much wider variety of classes, including classes that tie closely to jobs/disciplines. Kids know so very little about what they want to BE when they grow up. Big part of the reason is they waste time in classes that are not anything they're interested in and are not aligned with THEIR learning goals for the real world of jobs and beyond. What they really want to say....GIVE ME AWESOME things to learn, GIVE ME CHOICE, GIVE ME TOOLS and TIME, GIVE ME A SAY IN MY OWN LEARNING AND MY OWN DAY.
WHO says we need high stakes testing? I'm being honest and frank here. Why can we NOT throw high-stakes testing out the window? The only question that needs to guide this discussion is this: WHAT IS BEST FOR KIDS? I want to dialogue about this. What would educators say if we could vote on this one issue? I say it's time to chuck it out the window. Give us curriculum/standards to light the way, but give us a say in what those should be and how they should be written and don't tie them to high-stakes tests for goodness sake!
You cannot 'test' being an Explorer of the World. That is what kids need to have a chance to be...