Sunday, January 12, 2020

Introductory Post [TE 818]

It's a new decade, and a new graduate class, and a new me. Well, hopefully a slightly wiser, experienced, and thoughtful me at least.

In any event, here is an introductory post for TE-818.

Personal & Professional Introduction

I grew up in rural Iowa and spent much of my summers and free time working alongside my dad. Our partnership afforded me fantastic learning opportunities: the construction trade, manufacturing cabinet making tools, as well as traveling as a salesman on a woodworking show circuit. A distinct memory from my time in high school was actually my dad’s rationale for me missing class- “You learn more out on the road with me than you do in school!” Reflecting as an educator now, he was right. I learned CAD software, the raw material to consumer process, customer service, accounting, and maybe most importantly, work ethic. I was in many ways an apprentice learning on the job. This experience grounds the work I do with my students now.

I further realized a desire throughout my teacher education program in college to facilitate authentic and meaningful learning opportunities to my students through the project based learning process. I worked at a PBL lab school called Kent Innovation High School for four years, and am now working at the new Grand Rapids Public Museum School to develop place based and project based curriculum. I thoroughly enjoy working in an urban settings and the variety of community partnerships and civic initiatives my students and I partake in.

Initial Thoughts on the Meaning of Curriculum

My understanding of curriculum is very much shaped by my own "learning by doing" experiences in high school with my dad and the project-based learning training and mindset through my teaching career so far. I am deeply grateful to have worked in schools that embrace non-traditional teaching and learning strategies, but I am finding more and more that the idea of PBL and student centered learning are by no means “innovative” or “fads.” Along those lines, I am excited to dive into historical educational thinkers in this class and see connections between my work and theirs.

As unhelpful as buzzwords can be, I feel that I must just summarize my initials notions of curriculum using at least a few- ok, six. The school I work at seeks to develop curriculum through the mindset of place-based education using the design thinking process in a museum context. We also format our our assessment using the framework of competency based education. Those ideas are the pillars of are school, and the pillars of how we think about developing curriculum. The pillars are founded on convictions about student agency, cultural responsiveness, and equity. Even deeper than that, I believe all of my students are created in the image of God and will find a level of joy and satisfaction in reflecting His creativity, productivity, and character. Practically speaking then, curriculum to me is an avenue to design authentic learning experiences where students have voice and choice in creating solutions that make a meaningful difference in their local community.

Don’t let the buzzwords fool you, we/I by no means have it all figured out. I love the challenging and ambitious nature of the work we do and the worthwhile social and environmental engagement our school dives into. But it is hard work! We constantly bump against constraints, discover new holes in our most cherished dreams and plans, and our students are still, well, students. Maybe that’s the sum of my initial thoughts about curriculum- no matter how pie-in-the-sky and edu-jargon filled our plans can be, our curriculum is ultimately built for real students, and that means it will always be an adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nate,

    Thanks for your introductory post and the artfulness of this blog. And welcome to the course!

    I love everything you are bringing to this course and this post. I think you will find some interesting fellow travelers in this course, on many different levels. For example, I am a person of faith as well, and at least one other person in their introduction has centered their love of God. I find this fascinating and look forward to more dialogue on how you integrate these aspects of your life.

    Another thing that really fascinates me is the learning your received from your father. I write a lot about homeschooling. One of my major academic interests is redefining homeschooling to include cases like yours. School is very important to me. I train teachers to teach in schools. My kids go to public schools. But I have no illusions where the real important tuitions of life take place--at least, ideally.

    I'm excited for you to engage with John Dewey, in this regard. While Child & Curriculum is perhaps not the ideal text to engage this issue of the relationship between home learning and school learning, it should give you an idea. If you want to fully pursue what Dewey has to say on these topics, I recommend you read School & Society in place of Child & Curriculum (both are freely available all over the internet). It's your choice, of course.

    Your teaching situation sounds enviable, and your background has given you a deeper learning on PBL than any workshop or PD could. Life is about doing. Education, perhaps in some formal sense, comes belatedly, as a way to reflect on the fit between our doings and the world. There is no better way to approach learning, in my mind. I'm hopeful this course will challenge you to just the right degree. But if you ever feel like you need a different direction or a larger challenge, do let me know and I'll adjust things for you as well as I can.

    Thanks so much!



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