53. The Curriculum Council Continues Discussion

Mastery statement development in a district is usually a work in progress.

Traditional goals are somewhat understood or evident. Everyone is acquainted with how the statement will likely read. They have been down that road before.

That is not the case now.

A dramatic shift is coming in the way the district’s teaching and learning will happen. And everyone knows it. 

Meetings of the first subject area committee were especially challenging.

Barbara could have followed precedent by starting the walls exercise. Instead, she allowed discussions associated with mastery teaching and learning.

Mostly because of Rebecca’s urging and ideas.

Avoiding language based on IF students meet academic expectations. Instead, they WILL become engaged thinkers and creative contributors in a dynamic 21st Century American culture.

A shift in perspective that jolts some listeners into confusion. As the picture becomes clearer, a few will become enthused. Others will put up intellectual barriers.

Barbara Presents the Basis of the New Learning Infrastructure

Now we needed to examine the new communications mastery statement we created. I asked Rebecca to fully participate because she created the programmatic processes to institute genuine mastery.

I also turned to Mike Hall and his interpretation of mastery as being closer to adroitness. In abbreviated form, he repeated his definition of mastery as the ability to control facts and processes. Adroitness includes that definition but has more to do with creativity and innovation.

I had recorded and transcribed portions of his original comment about Americanism. “We have allowed the assembly line mentality now used in schools to dominate our essence as a culture. People in economic and political power have succeeded in equating efficiency with Americanism.

“Yet efficiency is only a small part of what makes this country great.

“America’s real strength has come from uncompromising ingenuity. We invent because we see a need. Then we analyze it, conduct research and development, evaluate it through trial and error, and create something to better meet the need.

“We should use that argument to support the new learning infrastructure. The American way of life is in jeopardy because we have allowed shackles to be put on our brains and academic enthusiasm, forcing us to do the same for students we teach. And it is killing our schools.”   

Ken said that he was not initially sure Mike was right, but now thinks he might be. “I worried about finding some way to sell our patrons and parents on the new learning infrastructure. It’s possible that approach is a way to bridge the political divide in our country and community.

“America’s greatness has come from innovators and ingenious builders. At a certain point in their lives many of those folks became innovators by giving up on the school’s curriculum.

“How can that kind of thinking be acceptable enough for us to keep doing it?”

I said, “One way to start a new way of doing things is to redefine curricular categories.”

The Communications SAC combines language arts and technology. And emphasizes teaching strategies that include engaging projects and other forms of interaction.

We suggest this interdisciplinary way of thinking for all future subject area committees. Technology and project-based teaching open the door to the possibility of adroit behaviors. Making learning tangential to the quest for new perspectives and answers.

A rebuilding of the American spirit.

At that point in the discussion, I projected our proposed communications mastery statement on the big screen in front of the conference room:

Life is more than a single dimension. It is an assortment of experiences that make it worth living. One experience is the ability to communicate expressively both orally and in writing.

Students participating in and completing the district’s language arts curriculum will master outcomes corresponding with written intentions for learning at grade level. Among those intentions for learning:

  • Defining reality in the context of decisions made valid through background knowledge and evidence.
  • Gaining insight into human interactions and behaviors as depicted in literature.
  • Discussing cultural influences, thereby gaining an appreciation and respect for diversity.
  • Interpreting problem solving as the ability to consider challenges, weigh the accuracy of options found in literature, conduct trial and error tests, and work in teams to create and evaluate possible or probable solutions.
  • Establishing a working definition of creativity as being an authentic learning goal. Characterized by the dynamic nurturance and acceptance of novel ideas, proposals, and behaviors that depict curiosity and devotion to some endeavor.
  • Demonstrating responsible behaviors in the context of what is read as valuable. Good taste, logical reasoning, instructive to readers as guidelines for living and learning. Responsible behaviors manifested in written works reflective of the writer’s own creativity. The ability to express ideas, opinions and factual information offered through quality syntax. 
  • Developing, through reading and writing, an appreciation for competition. Based on valuable insight, examples of moral/cognitive/physical self-improvement, and willingness to take risks for reasons other than self-aggrandizement.
  • Accepting persuasiveness based on conviction.
  • Improving the common good as the appropriate model for entrepreneurial enterprise.
  • Accepting that reading, writing, speaking, listening, and interacting through language is the basis of lifelong and worthwhile learning.
  • Using literature and other media as catalysts essential for making learning a conscious, intentional, and ongoing part of life.
  • Making curiosity a fundamental part of living and becoming, through reading or accessing diverse forms of media on a regular and ongoing basis.
  • Inquiring appropriately and regularly.
  • Participating in the interchange of vigorous and stimulating ideas where feedback is welcomed.
  • Recognizing the acquisition of self-confidence, the result of taking initiatives in widening groups.
  • Using insights taken from literature and other media.
  • Applying skills in speaking, writing, and listening to the act of reaching out.
  • Placing oneself where encouragement of others is given and received.
  • Practicing the art of mindfulness.
  • Being sensitive to prioritize actions and responses, particularly through effective oral and written communication.
  • Articulating the meaning and practice of self-discipline. The development of personal values, reinforced by reading quality literature and viewing uplifting media.
  • Interacting with others based on the art of conversation. Staying engaged with the world and listening carefully.   
  • Pursuing knowledge and sharing that knowledge with humility and sincerity through both speaking and writing.

Technology is not mentioned specifically in this mastery statement because it is essentially a tool or process to achieve the described ways of becoming. This mastery statement is vastly different from current standards.

It does not dwell on the minutiae of learning, but neither does it ignore the individual skills necessary to become more. More in the context of achieving the American dream and spirit.

All of us know a mastery statement like this is hard to measure in quantitative and concrete terms, but so is anything classified as being quality. Quality music, paintings, books, homes, cars, are more than the mere sum of their parts.

Standards, high stakes tests, and data fall short. They can assess mastery in minimum competency and functionality, but America is more than that! So must our education systems also be more.

©2021 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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