What I did:
At Parkdale CI, I am volunteering with teachers to help develop the curriculum for the GLE (Guidance Learning Exceptionalities) course. The course codes are GLES40/GLE40/GLE3, so this is for grades 11 and 12. Here, I help develop a document including course descriptions, expectations, unit foci and worksheets.
On my first day, I had the chance to sit in on a GLE course and observe the dynamic. It was different than the classes that I was used to teaching and being in. I’m used to classrooms that follow a strict guideline- The teacher lectures, we focus and do the homework. The teacher is often at the front, and the students sit at their individual desks. However, in this setting, students were sitting at circular shaped desks. They had the opportunity to speak to other students while the teacher walked around. This was a completely different setting and context that I am used to, so I learned a lot! Observing this setting emphasized the importance of the classroom setting. In this class, the round desks allowed more opportunity for social interaction among peers. It seemed engaging and fostered a kind of community among the students. I definitely want to teach in a classroom that allows students to learn from and get to know each other. When I was a high school student, I can tell you that I was less engaged when I was expected to pay attention to a teacher at the front of the class the whole class. I also sensed that students felt more comfortable with the teachers because they were very responsive.
Old and New
After I got a sense of the classroom dynamic, I had the chance to review a lot of older curriculum documents dating from the 1990s. It’s not that old but it definitely helped me understand the perspectives of the GLE course from that time. The aim was to get an idea of how the GLE course was approached in the past, and think about how I’d like to contribute to an updated one. What really stuck out to me was the use of technology in those documents and assignments from the 1990s. Wow…to think about how much has changed! I spent a lot of time thinking about the curriculum of the past, and how it can be worked on for more inclusivity and to adhere to the movement of technology.
One of the most prominent changes that I have made so far is the section called “Know your Rights”. In response to some of the teachers telling me that there are some ambiguities around legal rights after high school and which documents students can access, I decided to make a section in the curriculum that will outline some of the documents and policies that students may access after they graduate.
Planning for the Future
An emerging theme from this curriculum planning is planning for the future. There is a big emphasis on life outside the classroom and life after high school. In this way, there is a connection to “socially responsible, global citizens” in that the curriculum can help prepare students for this task. It calls students to ask: Where do my strengths lie? In what ways can I contribute to my community and the world?
In my reflection, helping write this curriculum reminds me of the importance of self-reflection and how it applies to the real-world. The curriculum focuses on reflecting on one’s strengths and desires in order to decide what their future work would be about. When I was in high school, I don’t think I did enough self reflection. There was an enormous pressure on choosing the career path that I didn’t feel ready for and I’m sure this is still relevant for students today. I feel like I chose my field of study based on my strengths and what my parents wanted me to do. While all of those are important, I wish I spent more time reflecting on my wants in my future. Reflecting on what you want is important for your happiness and I don’t feel like I did enough of that. It is only now that I realized that the teaching field was for me, after years of studying neuroscience and physiology and hoping to get into the research field. Through this learning project, I learned that it is important to not only consider external pressures, but also internal desires when making decisions for the future. These are things that not only I experience, but also students. When teaching, this project taught me to be mindful of these pressures as well. As teachers, we need to consider that students may be at the point of transition from high school to the work place or higher education.