Friday, September 24, 2010

Covering Curriculum

"The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage."

-Howard Gardner

Here's a story I share to describe my take on the folly of covering curriculum:

Pretend you are a bus driver and have been asked to make a dozen stops where children will be waiting to be  picked up so you can take them to school. Before you can leave the bus compound, your supervisor reminds you to arrive on time, and if you are late, you will be held accountable.

You pull out of the compound and make your way to the first stop. Upon arriving you notice no one is there, but you stop anyways and open the door. Just over the horizon, you see three kids running as fast as they can, so you wait. Winded and short of breath, the boys get on the bus, thanking you for waiting. While you pull away for your next stop, you tell them it was no problem. After all, you're just glad they are going to make it to school.

At the next three stops, you find yourself again waiting for kids that need more time to get on board. You paid no special attention to these events during the first couple stops, but now, after making the first half dozen stops, you start to look at your watch.

You're getting short on time. 

You plod on to the next stop, but you are immediately disheartened to see the kids are not sitting on the bench waiting for the bus. Instead, they are off in the distance, still making their way to where they are suppose to be. 

You stop the bus, but instead of opening the door, you look at your watch. You're not late yet, but you have no time to spare...

... you look up to see the kids are still a good distance away...

... you look at your watch...

... you look at the kids, but they are no closer...

... you look at your watch...

... you grimace and bite your upper lip...

... and then you do it - you shut the door and step on the accelerator - leaving the kids behind.

As you accelerate, you look at your watch, seeing time tick by. While thinking of your supervisors departing words "you will be held accountable", you surpass the legal speed limit. 

You approach the second last stop. There's no one on the bench. You have an idea where the kids are, but you can't bring yourself to look. The bench is empty, so you drive on by.

You're not particularly proud of what you just did, but you calm you conscience by looking at your watch - you've got time to be on time.

Then you get stuck at a red light. Suddenly you don't have the little time you thought you had left. The next stop is straight ahead, and the kids are even sitting there waiting. Hope encourages a smile.

Both your smile and hope evaporates as the red ember from the light etches itself into your optical nerve. The incessant ticktocking from your watch has you convinced Captain Hook had every right to be disturbed.

The light turns green and you're off like a shot. One more stop, but you have no time.

While the kids stand up in anticipation of your arrival, you blow right past them. They may be stunned, but you arrive on time.

You pull up to the school and open the door. As the lucky few disembark, you can't seem to tame that raw feeling of disappointment. At first, you want to ask yourself "what the hell did I accomplish?" but you realize the real question is "what the hell did I not accomplish?"

3 comments:

  1. What a powerful story this is! You have absolutely hit the nail on the head. Teaching should indeed focus on listening closely to children; paying attention to what they are interested in and what they need to reach higher levels of understanding. I'm constantly inspired by your writing and this site. Thank you!

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  2. Great story - I'm already thinking about how I can help those children who were late find alternate ways of reaching school or learn skills and strategies to help them get a bus. But at the same time, I'm thinking about why someone else is telling us how to drive the bus!!!

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  3. Bingo. Reminds me of "Done is better than perfect" , which I mostly disagree with.

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