A GUEST BLOG BY DR. STEPHEN GILBRETH
Dr. Gilbreth has worked for the Joplin school system for more than 20 years. He began at North as a teacher of technology, reading and communication arts for five years. He later became North's assistant principal for three years and then principal of Memorial Middle School, which is the current South, for the past 12 years.
He has a degree in English education from Missouri Southern State University, master's and specialist degrees in administration from Pittsburg (Kansas) State University, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Saint Louis University.
- Description taken from The Joplin Globe
Teachers have many jobs and duties they must perform every day. Understanding what is most important gets distorted and sometimes neglected. Having a solid curriculum is crucial to a teacher’s focus and success in the classroom. Robert Marzano has written about school districts having a guaranteed and viable curriculum. In education today, many things have gotten in the way of solid teaching practices. So many districts are trying to capture the magic offered in the form of numerous well-marketed educational programs.
Educational programs very rarely live up to the hype that got them into the classroom. Many factors play a part in that. The kind of professional development it takes to get any program implemented to its fullest very often does not make it to the table. Instead, it is typically one false start after another.
Districts that take the time to understand their state’s standards and get down in the weeds to develop curriculum, find success on many levels. First, teachers who participate in the development of curriculum have the opportunity to define the standards and vet out what students are asked to do. Second, teachers become experts of their content area.
Curriculum done right carries with it the reward of clarity for teachers about standards and what is to be taught. Great lesson plans and resources can be gathered once an understanding of what needs to be taught is in place. Developing a common vocabulary, clarifying objectives, and student outcomes are also components of a well-developed curriculum. The time teachers will spend collaborating about the mapping process of curriculum will help them effectively use tools like Bloom’s taxonomy to scaffold the intensity of lessons as students migrate through the grades. Using a pacing guide helps all teachers stay on the same page and especially helps students who move from building to building within a district of any size. A lack of common pacing guides can spell failure for students who tend to be transient. They can often miss whole concepts established through learning that scaffolds material, like math and science.
Teachers are asked to do so many things for their students today. Struggling to find the right materials to meet state standards should not be one of their battles. In an attempt to teach often nebulous standards, fundamental skills (number sense, phonics, phonemic awareness, etc.) are very often not adequately taught.
Teachers can master their content areas when they are involved in writing curriculum. Defining standards and collaborating with one another to map and pace the work, brings about a guaranteed and viable curriculum, which spells success in the classroom.
The Importance of Good Curriculum
Stephen Gilbreth, EdD
Assistant Superintendent, Learning Services