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Curriculum: Lessons Learned

Kimberly McWilliams
Author Affiliation

Abstract
Through the readings, class discussion, and interview with a curricularist many important
lessons were learned this summer. This paper takes into account the lessons learned from famous
educational theorists such as Dewey and writers like Marsh and Noddings. The main focus is my
interview with Tammey Shimon and her perspective on curriculum. Tammey and I conversed
through the interview conversing between her experience and my new knowledge of what is really
at the core of curriculum.

Introduction
During this summer course the history, philosophy, and applications of curriculum were
discussed. Curriculum does not simply consist of the subject being taught but rather how students
connect to the material. It is vital that students connect personally to material. Noddings stated,
It is not the subject offered that make curriculum properly a part of education but how those
subjects are taught (Noddings, 2009, p. 193). Recognizing students interests plays an integral
role in planning curriculum. Marsh wrote, Does the subject matter being taught adequately
represent to the student the reality of the surround world (Marsh, 2007, p. 25)? This question
helps keep the focus on the student and ensures the best experience.
Interviewee
For my interview I chose Tammey Shimon. Tammey will be my mentor teacher next year at
Campus High School in Haysville. Tammey and I had communicated briefly over the summer but
have not had a chance to really get to know one another . I took this opportunity to ask her her if
she would mind being interviewed for class so that I could get to know her more in-depth
personally as well as her teaching style. It turned out to be a great experience and definitely left
me feeling secure in my decision to switch school districts. Tammey is a terrific educator who has
taught for over 25 years. She has taught in several districts in Texas and Kansas. Her primary
teaching field has been Biology and Integrated Science. In the past she has also taught many

elective courses, International Baccalaureate, honors, advance placement classes, as well as


different grade levels. With such an extensive tenure and experience I can say with confidence
that I am lucky to have her as my mentor teacher. For this interview she provided a depth of
knowledge and supported many of the lessons I learned while taking Curriculum and Instruction.
I know she will continue to be a valuable resource. This paper is organized by the five different
key questions I asked Tammey during our interview.
Findings
The first question addressed was Tammeys definition and perspective on curriculum. To her
curriculum is a starting point of what to teach, a sound board to spring off (personal
communication, July 7, 2015). Curriculum needs to be a guided process whether it is a book or
utilizing different resources she shared. However, Tammey encouraged me to not stick too tight
to standards and to make those connections (personal communication, July 7, 2015). She added
that often times we become focused on the wrong things; meeting the scores and covering every
standard, that we forget our real focus the students. When having a student centered classroom
one must consider connections and relevance of content. Making connections means having the
ability to unify curriculum by bringing in different content areas. Students love knowledge but
only if it is relevant and applicable to their lives. Tammey spoke to fact that the more connections
you make outside of your core subject the greater the chance of it having a lasting impact on the

student. Dewey supported this same idea when he expressed the lacking of any organic
connection with what the child has already seen and felt and loved makes the material purely
formal and symbolic (Dewey, 2011, p.24).
The second question addressed Tammeys experience developing curriculum. Through her
twenty-five plus years of experience Tammey has had to write, plan, and organize several sets of
curriculum. Her most vivid memory of curriculum was planning the Texas State Science
Standards 1,2, and 3. She noted California and Texas changed the way science was being taught .
It moved to a more integrated approach. Students didnt simply take chemistry or physical
science but rather a blended class of all of the sciences. Currently the Campus science department
is finishing curriculum Next Generation Science Standards. After discussing her experience with
curriculum, complications with standards and curriculum arose.
The third question then focused on issues with curriculum. Tammey addressed two major
concerns with this question. First, curriculum can make teachers go into a box (personal
communication, July 7, 2015). Teachers are given a fairly strict guideline of what must be taught.
More often than not there arent a lot of time for extra topics. Typical teachers find themselves
saying There isnt time for this or We just cant fit this in. With these strict standards there
often isnt a lot of room for flexibility. However, they dont ensure the depth to which each topic

should be taught. That brings about the second issue, pacing. Teachers naturally focus on what
they like or feel most comfortable. Thus teachers can spend more or less time on certain subjects.
This is where alignment of curriculum is critical
During the fourth question the changes in curriculum over the years was debated. The first
words to come from Tammeys mouth were everything is trendy. She clarified her statement by
commenting on the cyclical trends of education. Everything comes back around. This coincides
with our ever-evolving society. The newer way is always the better way. However, in education
when something is constantly changing and never allowed to evolve it can be difficult to
determine if something is effective or not . Here she also spoke to the trend of international
studies. Campus has had an International Baccalaureate (IB) program for two years . Tammey has
loved teaching these classes because it compares apples and apples. For example students who
take Biology in Kansas, France, Australia, and Hong Kong will all take the same exit exam. This
allows for a more accurate assessment when comparing countries. Further more Tammey is
excited about Common Core and NGSS because it is making the United States children more
competitive with students from other countries.
The closing question was on a more personal level. I asked What is your teaching
philosophy? For Tammey teaching isnt just about her content but also life lessons. Manners are

a huge emphasis in her classroom. She noted Im not just here to teach them biology. I need to
prepare them for jobs and so forth. Preparing them includes her shaking her hand every morning
as they walk to through the door to her emphasizing effective ways of communicating with group
members. Everyone needs to learn how to be a team player, you cant be alone your entire life
(personal communication, July 7, 2015). This coincided perfectly with Dewey who reported the
main purpose is to prepare the young for future responsibilities and fro success in life (Dewey,
1938, p. 18). One of my favorite parts that Tammey brought up was the experience of the
learner. At the beginning of each school year she tells students youll get out of it what you put
into it. If students are interested in the subject they will get more out of it. She does her best to
make her class likable but is honest about the fact that there are some boring parts . To ensure
students attention she doesnt lecture over their age. Meaning if the students are 14, she
lectures/ note takes for 14 minutes. Her classroom consists of lots of hands on activities and
visuals. These types of activities agreed with Eisner who stated Many of the most productive
modes of though are nonverbal and illogical. These modes operate in visual, auditory, metaphoric,
synesthetic ways and use forms of conception and expression that far exceed the limits of logically
prescribed criteria (Eisner, 2002, p.98). Tammey remarked, make sure you encourage students

to help one another. They learn more from peers than they learn from you. This speaks to the
true definition of cooperative learning.
Conclusion
There were many take away lessons from the Curriculum and Instruction course. For me the
strongest messages I took away were to have students be the center in my planning and make
every experience I share with them worth while. Just as the old saying goes it isnt about
quantity it is about quality. The same can be said for the experiences in a classroom. As teachers
it is easy to let politics and standards shape our teaching and lose the real focus, the students . This
course reminded me how much we have a lasting impact both positive and negative for students .
When keeping students in the forefront of planning, it makes for a better over all experience. It is
our mission to make each day a gift to be in our classroom. I want my students to extract at
each present time the full meaning of each present experience from this they will grow to full
potential in the future. My goal as en educator is be the best I can be everyday and bring out the
best in my students.

References
Adler, M. (2009). The paideia proposal. In Flinders, D. J. & Thornton, S. J. (Eds.), The curriculum
studies reader (3rd ed.) (pp. 176-179). New York, NY: Routledge.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience & Education. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Eisner, E. (2009). What does it mean to say a school is doing well? In Flinders, D. J. & Thornton,
S. J. (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader (3rd ed.) (pp. 327-335). New York, NY: Routledge.
Eisner, E. (2002). The three curricula that all schools teach. In The educational imagination: On the
design and evaluations of school programs (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Flinders, D. & Thornton, S. Eds. (2009). The Curriculum Studies Reader (4th ed.). New York, NY:
Routledge.
Noddings, N. (2009). The false promise of the paideia: a critical review of the paideia proposal.
In Flinders, D. J. & Thornton, S. J. (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader (3rd ed.) (pp.180-187).
New York, NY: Routledge.