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Stay Where You Are: The Curriculum Police are on the Way

by Neil Finney

Sirens blazing, the pearl white sedans screech into the bus loading zone in front of the main doors. Two men quickly exit their vehicles and approach the school entrance.

 “Excuse me,” they speak in a monotone but firm manner to the innocent secretary, “we need to speak to Mrs. Brown.”

Down the hall, first door on the left,” Beatrice answers – without even ending the phone conversation and sipping her large café mocha.

The agents walk with purpose to your classroom door, but as they enter, the shock and disbelief registers on their faces. Students engaged in a purposeful discussion – the room filled with turn-taking and passionate advocates of their arguments. Agent Joe begins to sling his shoulder bag off and struggles to pull out the comfy extra long-sleeved white coat with shiny buckles. But then, he realizes, it’s not needed today. Mrs. Brown is on her game!

 The Curriculum Police are not on their way to your classroom – as exciting and sensational as that thought seems. Breathe in a deep breath and exhale with the satisfying notion that you have been afforded the opportunity and freedom to make your own instructional decisions. But, with this comes the realization that your students count on you to support their learning and prepare them for the future.

The instruction in your classroom, indeed, rests with you alone, supported by the curriculum document to guide student learning and improve student achievement. You make the ultimate linkages and connections that marry material to student interest through the curriculum documents that guide your programming using a progression of learning outcomes and expectations.

Save your stories about the curriculum police for April Fool’s Day pranks and campfire stories. We, teachers, have an incredible opportunity to take the benchmarks and learning goals of a generalized curriculum document and tailor it to the multiple intelligences and student interests in our room.

I’ve often heard teachers express: “I teach students – not curriculum.” To this, I would offer the suggestion that curriculum can be the white bread of your student engagement, cheese and pickle sandwich. It holds together our instruction and informs us of the building blocks to our student’s learning.

In what creative ways have you used the curriculum framework to empower student learning? How has your approach to teaching curriculum expectations changed as you have matured as a teacher?




During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

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  • Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    I love this post, Neil! This year, I’ve made some changes to how I’ve approached curriculum. I teach older students now (Grade 6 versus primary), and I’ve gotten the students involved in working with the expectations. At the beginning of the year as my teaching partner and I were considering how to approach literacy centres in our classroom, we gave the students the Language Document, and we had them work in groups to develop activities based on the expectations. The students quickly learned what they had to learn this year. They understand why they were doing what they were doing, and every one of them, could easily share this information with anyone that asked. Getting students using the curriculum helped them gain an even greater appreciation for it!

    Even now, I have my students help me develop Success Criteria and rubrics based on curriculum expectations. Students are learning what these expectations mean, and they are seeing the link between them and the activities that they do. I think this is so important.

    I’m curious to hear more about what you do in the classroom to meet curriculum expectations, while also providing amazing learning opportunities for students!