Reid works at a very busy school. I know, I’ve worked there too. But all schools are busy… and many of the people who work in them have become obsessed with their own “busyness”. People compete to see how early they can arrive and how late they can leave, and the quality or effectiveness of teachers is often based on judgments founded purely on the times they arrive and depart from school. I’ve written about all of that before.
Now, Reid steps up on the stage and asks us “what gets cut?” and points out some ridiculously obvious truths that – it seems – nobody had bothered to calculate before… none of us had, ironically, “done the maths”. When added together, in all subjects, there are more standards, learning outcomes, objectives or whatever you want to call them than there are days in the school year!
This is where we begin the weather-beaten debate about mastery, developmental continuums, standards-based curriculums, standardized testing, reporting… you know the one. But, the basic truth remains… we, and our students, are behind before we’ve even started. There is no way any student can “master” the number of outcomes we (are supposed to) expect them to each year. There is no physical way we can teach all of them either. We are perpetually behind.
I am very grateful to Reid, because his talk put me right back in the moment I was attending my first PYP workshop in Switzerland. The workshop leader gave us a reading and it slapped us all in the face. Grant Wiggins’ elegant and hard-hitting assault on schools’ attempts to “teach everything of importance” mocked those of us coming from the National Curriculum of Anywhere and dared us to believe that teaching could, and should be completely different. Not long after the death of Grant Wiggins, I am not going to quote or paraphrase his article. Instead, I offer you the link here and urge you to take a few moments out of your busy day to read it from beginning to end, and with no other distractions.