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CURRICULUM IN CONTEXT Like in most other public school classrooms in Philadelphia, mine operates under the pressure to perform

well on the PSSA in April. The importance of achieving a score of Proficient certainly looms over the students, and is communicated regularly by my Classroom Mentor. I find much in common with the sentiments expressed by the author of the example draft posted on CANVAS, who also was a student teacher at E.M. Stanton. I agree with the writers lamentations that a single, standardized test might define so much of how students view themselves and how teachers choose to teach. I disagree, however, that it is my place as a student teacher to identify with certainty what students seem to be lacking in terms of their interactions with one another and their sense of community. Consequentially, the point of this assignment is not, to me at least, to fill in the gaps that I perceive in my Classroom Mentors pedagogical approach or students behavior. Instead, I choose to acknowledge the realities of standardized testing which are hardly limited to E.M. Stanton alone without judgment, and build my curriculum based on the strengths of my particular classroom context. For one thing, my Classroom Mentor has established an environment in which learning is absolutely central. While it sometimes results in the exclusion of social or emotional needs, my Classroom Mentor pushes the students academically in a way that I have not witnessed before. It is especially important for these students because, according to her, they are the lowest group of sixth graders shes ever taught. (In fact, we do not have a single student reading or doing math at grade level.) As a result, the students come to school expecting to work hard, all day long. This is certainly a benefit for me as I consider my two-week takeover. In terms of my actual curriculum content, I am building from a few examples of expressed interest in identity and history, particularly through a racial lens. One of the great

aspects of my classroom routine is the morning journal. Each morning, the students respond to a prompt in their journals, which is then read and commented upon by either my Classroom Mentor or myself. Throughout the year, the students have shown a willingness to express personal thoughts about their own identities and personal lives. Various other writing activities have reinforced this willingness. For instance, one student wrote about the importance of knowing ones history, specifically referring to slavery and her great-greatgreat-great-grandfather. The students also responded enthusiastically to a literacy lesson I taught based on a story about Jim Crow-era racism in the Deep South. I believe (and my Penn Mentor concurred) that the students were itching to go deeper into these difficult yet powerful conversations. One limitation that I will acknowledge is that my students have not had much experience with non-traditional pedagogy. By this I mean that they are not used to learning activities that are not closely guided by the teacher, nor do they seem particularly comfortable with assessments that do not involve PSSA-style constructed responses or multiple-choice bubbles. This was brought home to me during one of my Term III lessons when I asked the students to reflect upon the lesson and was greeted with a room full of blank stares. As my Classroom Mentor admitted afterward, these students are not currently comfortable with tasks that do not produce tangible products while following clear directions. I must keep this in mind as I continue to think about effective learning tasks and assessments.