In 2016-2017, the Language Arts and Social Studies departments at our school will be undergoing a curriculum review. This news wasn’t meant with universal acclaim. I think it’s very easy, especially for those who have been teaching for any number of years, to feel like whatever professional development we undertake is just the latest new fad that will be abandoned in 1-5 years. It’s not an entirely unwarranted feeling, especially given that initiatives have been abandoned or moved on from in the past.
Despite all this, I’m feeling positive about the curriculum review for several reasons. The first is that the timeline for the project- a four year cycle- seems reasonable; we’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel in six months. The first year will focus on reflection and years 2-4 on implementation. Because I will be away for the first part of next year on parental leave, we started the process a bit early at our June PD meeting. The second is that, while there is a loose structure guiding the process, much of it will be driven by the reflection that’s done in the first year.
The two departments met together and the Language Arts department chair and I led department members in the first part of a SOAR analysis.1 We focused on Strengths, Opportunities, and Aspirations:
Strengths: What are we doing well? What are we known for? What are our areas of expertise?
Opportunities: What are our best future opportunities? What are our areas of untapped potential? How can we distinguish ourselves?
Aspirations: What are we passionate about? What difference do we hope to make? What does our preferred future look like?
There was some nice overlap between the two departments related to wanting to find ways to connect students to additional resources and communities outside the school campus. There were also some areas of strength and opportunity that were unique to each department. I’m looking forward to the work to come.
1 Stavros, Jacqueline M, Cooperrider, D L, & Kelley, D Lynn. (2003). Strategic inquiry appreciative intent: inspiration to SOAR, a new framework for strategic planning. AI Practitioner. November, 10-17.