Portage Township Schools

The unseen curriculum

2012-12-16T00:00:00Z The unseen curriculumAris Psimos Kyle Principal Portage Township Schools nwitimes.com
December 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

When we talk about curriculum most everyone would think that we are talking only about academics. We share expectations, lesson designs and methods all aimed to advance learning. But curriculum is more than the academics and getting results. Curriculum is also about creating the environment that is suitable for learning.

My brother and I remember clearly to this day the Tuesday evening “dinner special” that featured liver and onions. The aroma made us nauseous as we entered the back door. Back in those days you had to eat what was put in front of you. Our folks never showed us any mercy by giving us the option not to eat. Nonetheless, the results were achieved; we ate the liver and our mom felt this weekly cuisine would protect us from just about any childhood disease. However, little attention was given to the atmosphere in which the dinner took place. Attention to the ambiance could have included some conversation and other pleasantries that would have accomplished the same results yet in an atmosphere that was conducive to healthy eating.

This real life example is analogous to that hidden curriculum in school where we try very hard to establish an environment that creates a pleasant place for all to work and learn. In PTS we have adopted the CRITICAL Values where children are challenged to have the Courage to be; “Respectful, Responsible, Fair, Honest, and Compassionate."

These are not just words; everyone is focused on them every day. It doesn’t take long for an educator to learn that rules and consequences are needed to shape appropriate behavior, but the other component (the silent one) are the values that need to be blended with just the right balance. Rules don’t explain the reason, and they don’t explain the benefits that all will enjoy if the rules are followed. When we teach the CRITICAL Values children are learning habits, and the trick is to be very consistent from the time those kids enter kindergarten.

The staff models respectful behavior in the way that children are spoken to and then there is a school wide expectation for the students to model that behavior with their friends and even to those who are not their friends. They are taught the importance of caring for their school and to be on the lookout for anyone who doesn’t. They pick up on those kids who sit alone at lunch and are encouraged to invite them to their table and later in a game at recess.

When those CRITICAL Values are violated, there is quick action with consequences but in addition discussion about how their actions adversely affected other people both students and/or staff. The entire Kyle staff is quick to provide attention to children when they demonstrate those values so that they can feel they are making a contribution to their school.

When children have friendly conversations with their friends at lunch, get along at recess, complete their homework on time, return lost belongings, and learn to solve conflict with others in a nonviolent manner, etc., they become stakeholders in the success achieved at Kyle. Even if some consider reading or math as unpleasant as eating liver and onions, the environment will make a significant in the teaching/learning process.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

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