This afternoon, I found myself lingering after school to talk to a few colleagues. Our conversation was animated, passionate. It was the type of conversation that pushed my thinking further, the type of conversation that made me consider things from different points of view. It was the type of conversation I was still thinking about after I left the building today.
In fact, it was the type of conversation that picked up right where we left off in a series of text messages sent back and forth, off and on, for nearly four hours. We talked about our teaching, our students, and more importantly, what we were teaching our students.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the responsibility we have as teachers to teach more than just academic content or academic skills. Those are important, no doubt, but there’s another curriculum—the hidden curriculum, as educators Theodore and Nancy Sizer term it in their 2000 book, The Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract. To briefly summarize the Sizers’ work:
I actually first read the Sizers’ book when I was in graduate school; my masters thesis was on the role of moral education in secondary classrooms. Since then, however, I hadn’t given as much deliberate thought about the hidden curriculum, mostly out necessity, survival, and then non-habit. But lately I can’t seem to escape it. The Sizers’ challenge “to find the core of a school . . . look at the way the people in it spend their time—how they relate to each other, how they tangle with ideas” pulls at me and pushes. What are the messages, I wonder, that I send to my students in my daily interactions (and non-interactions) with them?
And of course, the hidden and official curriculum overlap. One issue that had been nagging at me lately was what we were doing with the texts that we teach—what larger purpose do they serve? These, for example, are some of my texts (excuse my texting typos):
And so I find myself struggling as I question how I frame and deliver content—and how the frame and delivery can often make or break a learning experience. I continued:
Later, one of my colleagues added this:
We didn’t come to any conclusions or necessarily fix any problems in our after-hours conversations, but we did hash out some big issues, thought deeply about our practice and how to serve students well.
It was time well spent.
This post is part of the “Slice of Life” series, organized by the teachers at Two Writing Teachers, whose goal is to give teachers a place to write and reflect. This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.