My journey through the curriculum and instruction for social justice program
Why do we teach? How do we teach? What do we teach? Furthermore, when we do teach, what is our end objective? Are we trying to meet curriculum standards, or are we trying to do more—such as build character, positivity, awareness, tolerance, and understanding? I must admit that these questions still run through my mind after having been a student in Loyola University Maryland’s curriculum and instruction for social justice program. I ask myself, “Where would I be without that self-reflection?” I don’t even know if I would be asking myself these important questions, and so I am glad I had the opportunity to enrich my journey as an educator in Loyola’s master’s degree program.
The first time I visited Loyola’s Timonium Graduate Center, I was unsure and nervous. I had been a student before, of course, but in my mind, this was the big leagues. The first class I took was curriculum theory—how each curriculum has a purpose and underlying principle. This was the important takeaway from this class; each curriculum theory supports a different academic ideology, and this really gave me the opportunity to understand how my curriculum operated. It showed me the why of my own curriculum, and it allowed me to think more about how I enacted it. For example, if my curriculum already provides a scholar academic, or content-driven perspective, how can I supplement it with a social reconstructionist, or student activism perspective? I know these may mean nothing to you now, but I can assure you it is important to balance your students’ education and inclusivity, among other things when you really get on a roll in the classroom. How many children do we teach in a day, and how many of them learn in just one way, catering to one specific ideology or belief system? That would be madness! To this day, thinking about this has become almost automatic to me; a subtle, but important reminder of what I learned here.
With this learning, I went on to other classes and learning experiences. If you have ever been nervous to have a difficult conversation or put yourself in somebody else’s perspective, you would not be alone. I, too, could be tempted to stay on the sidelines, but I remember the encouragement from my professors to join in on the conversation. I recall specifically the course entitled race, class, and gender, and the countless conversations we had that asked us to push our boundaries and our minds past our social limits. Is this not what we would encourage our students to do? To look past the difficult processes and focus instead on the journey we are on together? Being a student at Loyola enabled me to widen my perspective and to ask the important questions about myself as a teacher. I hear the voices of my classmates, in a sense, reminding me that my viewpoint is not the only one; it reminds me to listen—to my students, to my colleagues, to their questions, and to my own.
When I think back to my curriculum and instruction experience, I find myself constantly growing because of what I learned. It made me a life-long learner, listener, and teacher. When I think about this—this continuous learning—I realize that this is the goal I have for my own students. I could not ask for anything more in terms of my own education. I challenge you to listen, learn, and grow through your own educational experiences today, or the next day, or the next opportunity you have.
Written by Lauren Harrington, curriculum and instruction for social justice program advisory board member, a 2012 curriculum and instruction for social justice alumna, and middle school Spanish teacher, Pine Grove Middle School, Baltimore County Public Schools.