Monday, August 9, 2010

Does A Master Teacher Need a Curriculum?

A master teacher doesn't need a curriculum! To believe this would be a mistake.

It may very well appear that a teacher of such knowledge and experience does not. I once did the math and wrote an article explaining that, for example, I have taught comma usage approximately 165 times.

If it appears that a master teacher does not need a curriculum to teach, it is because that teacher is the curriculum.

"Well begun is half done" is the basic idea behind curriculum building. Ask that master teacher if curriculum is important, and I believe the answer will be, "Of course it is. A curriculum is the basis of an effective educational program."

A curriculum is the game plan. It is the blueprint and the genetic code. It is God's Plan. It is the grocery list you take to the supermarket. How easy is it to get distracted in the supermarket and forget why you really came and what you really wanted? The same is true when in a room full of teenagers. (Or six rooms full of teenagers as the day progresses.)

Consciousness-based Education identifies five Fundamentals of Progress: 
  1. Stability
  2. Adaptability
  3. Integration
  4. Purification
  5. Growth
Applying these fundamentals of progress to curriculum development is illuminating.


A curriculum is the foundation of an educational program. It should answer basic questions such as the following:
  • What is important for the students to learn--and why? 
  • In what sequence will the material be taught? 
  • What methods will be used to meet the different needs of students? 
  • How will the teacher (and student) know that the material has been learned?

 A curriculum must be dynamic in order to meet the varied needs of the students. Traditionally, curriculums (or curriculi!) are rewritten about every six years. Times change, students change, faculty changes, technology changes, knowledge changes and expands. Therefore, a curriculum must change, adapt.


 The integration of changing and unchanging is essential to a curriculum. The vision, goal, or destination must be maintained, but the path to the goal must be changed according to the need of the times.

I was once teaching "word choice" to my thirteen-year-old students when a huge thunderstorm rolled and rumbled across the sky. The classroom darkened, and lightning flashed. Hail peppered the windows.

And so I just calmly said to my students, "Now, let's look at that worksheet . . ."


I adapted and said, "Let's go to the window. Now, what words would you use to describe this storm?"

Not all days--nor certainly all students--have the same needs. Knowledge must be an offering the student accepts. Cram it down the throat, and the student chokes.

"You are on the 137th day of your curriculum and are supposed to be on page 437. You aren't."

What kind of teacher are you, anyway?

A teacher's content area is always changing, evolving. The teacher's experience is changing. The times, they are a' changin'! Writing and teaching a curriculum is a process. It is, in many ways, not just a road map to excellence; it is also a journal that describes and documents that journey. Improvement implies change. Not necessarily "out with the old, in with the new." Better to say "out with the ineffective, in with the effective."


Growth is a function of time. Children grow up. Evolution implies improvement and change. Expect time to be a contentious concept. Where are we going to find that time? There are typically 180 days of instruction during the school year. We could cut that time in half and provide ninety additional days of curriculum development time a year. (The students would like that.) We could just do it on our own time. (The district budget planners would like that.) Or we could find some balance point, some reasonable plan that, over time, incorporates opportunities for curriculum development. 

And then, of course, six years later--we start all over again.

That reminds me of the story about the thirty-year teaching veteran who was told that there was a fire at the school during the summer and all his teaching materials, notes and lectures, had been destroyed. What did that veteran teacher do? He retired!

We do not want our teachers to retire. We do not want our students to "retire."

Or, rather, we do want to retire--in the best sense of the word. Retire means to draw back, to remove oneself to a region of less activity. Consciousness-based education includes drawing the mind back to its state of least excitation of consciousness, to its most comprehensive, quiet state--and then teacher and student dynamically engage in the process of teaching and learning.

At Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, the Transcendental Meditation technique is the technology used for pulling back the arrow on the bow before releasing it.

At this time, the beginning of a new school year, I have this desire--may we all hit our targets.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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