I always struggled with the imposition of district mandates on curriculum. It was often at odds with my goals as an educator and with the interests and passions of my students.
Restrictive curriculum does not just hurt students. It can feel like an incredible burden for the teacher as well. It is hard to fake excitement over something you are teaching because “it’s on the test” or because “the district paid for it and we have to use it” or any other number of reasons.
Trapped within those systems, here is a simple workaround I used to provide some form of relief to myself and my students.
I coded it: Mine, Yours, Ours.
Mine: This is what I have to teach.
Yours: This is what my students want to learn about.
Ours: This is where our passions and interests meet with the objectives of learning and goals of the class.
With each unit, we discussed as a group what the “Mine, Yours, and Ours” would be. As co-contributors, we would talk about the goals of the unit and learning objectives that must be met. This would lay the groundwork for a classroom curricular decision.
Mine: Knowing that this was only a part of what I would teach, the mine section became less restraining. I could talk about the benefits of reading Shakespeare, The Odyssey, etc. and hype those portions of the unit up. It wasn’t the “end all be all” anymore, so it was just something else (with no extra importance placed) that we would be checking out.
Yours: My students found it incredibly freeing to be able to make their own choice in the curriculum. Whether it was books, poems, songs, blog posts, youtube videos, magazine articles, or anything else, they got to make a decision that would actually show up in the classroom.
If I could relate it even slightly in the content, it would reinforce what I was teaching. If there were conflicts between students on what to use, I would use it all and break it into group or individual projects. There were no wrong ideas here, just opportunity to create connections to their lives and worlds.
Ours: More structured than yours, I would bring in multiple ideas to discuss a third option for how we learned the material of the unit. The options would be provided by me, but would include a large and diverse array of selections. This would allow me to curate content that aligned strongly with our unit, but would also give students more autonomy and choice in their learning experience.
Because the yours and ours allowed for so many different vehicles of learning, it never became a burden. All it did was provide an alternate method of learning and displaying growth. If I had a student struggling with Romeo and Juliet, but could diagnose the structure of a dramatic play through relating to a movie they enjoyed, haven’t they still accomplished the goal?
Moreover, many students would learn the material off the yours and ours choices, and then apply it to the mine choice. They could clearly see the skill and how it worked with their passions and interests, only to make it applicable to the curriculum that they were least excited about.
Mine, yours, ours. It keeps you out of trouble and moving forward with your mandated curriculum. But it also keeps yourself and your students engaged, excited, and curious! Give choice and make room in your day for co-constructed curriculum.