Ayers on Curriculum

I really am liking this Ayers guy.  His ideas about education and the meanings in the methods that he proposes really seem to hit home in many instances for me.  In many places throughout the book, such as when he spoke about his son’s coming of age ceremony, I found myself rereading the passage again simply because it seemed to say so much more than I could absorb in one pass.  His ideas ring true with me for some reason, but then again, I’ve always liked those radical types of people who are trying to bring about change.


This weeks reading focused upon curriculum, and what the concept of curriculum means.  Too man y times, he points out, people believe that curriculum is thought of as knowledge that can be attained and completed.  This he argues, is a fatal flaw.  In the act of calling curriculum complete, you limit the learning process, and then limit what your students can learn.  Knowledge is not something that has an endpoint, and therefore neither should curriculum, but it should be something that is constantly looked at as a reference point of something that can be discovered and something that can still cause excitement for the learning community- that the teacher must be a part of in an effective community.  The teacher is not the one who knows all (the “curriculum”), but is one who actively participates in engaging ways of learning about the curriculum that has been decided upon by the community.  If this is done in the right way, the spark of discovery will nor be lost and the teacher will be enthusiastic in their practice.  That sounds good to me.


Perhaps one of the greatest things I have found in our readings to this point thus far are the rules that Ayers lays out for himself that are listed on pages 91 and 92.  These rules are the sort of ‘litmus test’ that one can post by their computer monitor to sort of give themselves a check from time to time (probably more often in the beginning) to ensure that you are doing the best job possible and that you are keeping yourself on track and staying true to your goals.


Are there opportunities for discovery and surprise? When students lose the ability to discover things for themselves through the exploration of primary sources, they lose quite a bit.  Students do not need to learn through someone else’s interpretation of what something means; it is far more valuable for them to decipher and question the information for themselves.  This is the heart of the scientific method.


Are students actively engaged with primary sources and hands-on materials?  Once again, there needs to be things for them to become engaged with, readily available.  Take the initiative to go out and find things that will spark their curiosity.  What interested you when you were that age?  Kids are still kids- find things that they will want to look at and become involved with.


Is productive work going on?  Productive work can take many forms.  Productive work need not be in the form of a written essay to have value.  Kids discussing the deeper meaning of what a song means can be a great means of productive work as long as there is some sort of guidance there.  Productive work does not need to look like “Leave it to Beaver”, but can actually be fun for the kids to participate in.  I believe that when kids learn, it’s productive.  And if they’re engaged, all the better.


Is the work linked to student questions or interests?  If you don’t make it interesting, you’ll run the risk of losing the kids.  It’s what happened to me, and it will happen to other kids as well.  One of the biggest crimes we can commit against a classroom full of students is to provide work that is not of interest to them, as they will be apathetic towards the work and ultimately towards school.  Keep it interesting.


Are problems in the classroom, the community, the school, the larger community part of student consciousness?   I think that it’s important to help kids realize the issues that are happening around the area and the community, and to reflect ways of coping with the issues in classroom discussions.  By doing so, kids can find ways to cope with the problems in the safe community environment that I hope to provide (that I will provide!).


These rules, I think, are a great set of guidelines to get me started in thinking of how to approach the ways in which I hope to teach.  By approaching them with tact and thought, it would be difficult not to make my classroom a better place.  Time will tell.


One thought on “Ayers on Curriculum

  1. Time will, indeed, tell!

    Productive work, as Ayers envisions it, involves kids in meaningful projects that touch the world — over and above their mere value as “fun”. They involve kids in real materials and resources that were not created just to translate kids in schools some sanitized version of the “real” world.

    So, how will you find out what your kids are most interested in? How will you introduce them to things that, if they were trusted to think carefully about such things, they’d find very interesting?

    And what will that have to do with your curriculum?

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