Places of Curriculum Making: Volume 14

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Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Our awakening to the curriculum being made by children and families in home and community places grows out of a theoretical background that informs our current inquiry into the tensions experienced by children, families, and teachers as they compose diverse lives on school landscapes, contexts increasingly structured by achievement testing. Our understanding of curriculum is grounded in Clandinin and Connelly's (Clandinin, 1986; Connelly & Clandinin, 1988) earlier attention to curriculum making as the expression of a teacher's personal practical knowledge. They described this knowledge as “that body of convictions and meanings, conscious or unconscious, that have arisen from experience (intimate, social, and traditional) and that are expressed in a person's practices” (Clandinin & Connelly, 1995, p. 7). Dewey's (1938) notions of continuity, situation, and experience, shaped Clandinin and Connelly's (1992) understanding of the “teacher not so much as a maker of curriculum but as a part of it and to imagine a place for contexts, culture (Dewey's notion of interaction), and temporality (both past and future contained in Dewey's notion of continuity)” (p. 365). By bringing together their understandings of teachers’ knowledge as personal practical knowledge with Dewey's notion of experience and Schwab's (1969) four curriculum commonplaces – teacher, learner, subject matter, and milieu – Clandinin and Connelly (1992) suggested that curriculumbe viewed as an account of teachers’ and children's lives together in schools and classrooms … .[In this view of curriculum making] the teacher is seen as an integral part of the curricular process … in which teacher, learners, subject matter, and milieu are in dynamic interaction. (p. 392)

The children returned and Ms. Lee had them go to their desks. There was so much excitement in the air … . Ms. Lee has rearranged the desks again and I like how there are such frequent shifts in seating. Ms. Lee spoke of their photographs and their collages. She then said I would give the guiding question for their work on the citizenship education project today in their small sustained response groups. I fumbled badly and said something about who they are and how they belong. Ms. Lee wrote it on the board. As Ms. Lee continued to speak, I went and changed the words to “Who I am and how I belong.” Ms. Lee spoke to the children of how they were going to start putting their photos on their poster boards and to think about how their photographs were representations of who they were and where they belonged. No glue or scissors at this point. She also showed them the paper where she wanted them to write about their photographs.The children got their individual pieces of bristol board for their collages and Ms. Lee said they might want to choose a spot on the floor as they did this work. They were intent and focused on their own photographs but were also sharing with their neighbours. At one point, I commented to Ms. Lee, Simmee, and Jennifer about how impressed I was with their intentness. I spent some time with Logan who had some magnificent photographs … he has an eye for the aesthetic. I pointed out to him how much I liked the photographs. I also spent some time with Taylor who had three photographs of clothes: one Chinese outfit, one Korean outfit, and a long white dress that she said she did not know what it was. I asked if it was a christening dress and she said she thought so, that her mom had taken the photograph. She also had a close up of a Canadian flag. I spent some time with Sophie who had rejected some of her photographs as not interesting. When I pointed out what I saw as interesting things in her photographs, she started to see them more positively. I asked a few children what they planned to put in the centre of their collages. I realized, even as I asked that question, that I was privileging the centre photograph. Liam had his dad's photo clearly in the centre. He was busily writing words. He said he wasn't sure what to write about his dad but then wrote something about family being important. (Field notes, April 2, 2007)

As we opened this chapter in relation with Loyla's life, we did so with a transcript excerpt from a research conversation in which Loyla spoke about a series of experiences shaping much unhappiness in her life; they were experiences also creating significant concern for Orie. On the day in May when Loyla, Orie, and Janice engaged in the conversation from which the transcript excerpt is taken, Orie and Loyla had, just hours prior, participated in an after-school meeting with Mrs. Gallagher. Orie explained to Janice that she had requested the meeting as a result of a series of situations unfolding over a number of months between Loyla, Cicily, and Ahlam. Recounting the events to Janice, Orie began with Loyla's shift in inviting Ahlam to her birthday party. Initially, Loyla suggested Ahlam as a friend she wanted to invite but then, the next morning, she told Orie she no longer wanted to invite Ahlam because Cicily had said that if Ahlam was invited, she would not attend (Journal entry, Orie, December 8, 2008).

Elizabeth told her parents she wants to be an inventor but they said she should be a dentist. Elizabeth told us that being a dentist is okay with her because they make stuff – they still invent so she can be a dentist. (Field notes, March 9, 2007)Today as Ji-Sook shared her collage with the class, she emphasized her family in Korea, her church, and the Bible, three topics that came up several times. She talked about Betta, her fish who is also her family and who she talks to when she is sad. Her symbols of belonging were trees and friendship: trees are about belonging for without them the ground would be cracked, there would no oxygen and we would be dead; friendship is like a broken toy – both can be mended. (Field notes, May 9, 2007)

As the bell rang, sounding the beginning of the school day, Ji-Sook (Elizabeth) entered the classroom, her pink tweed coat and mittens still frosty from the snow outside. This was Ji-Sook's second year of school in Canada and her first year at Streamside School. She really liked it here and loved her teacher, Ms. Song Lee. Ms. Lee was always sharing stories with the class about her experiences growing up in another country as well as her arrival to Canada and growing up in small towns where Ms. Lee was often the only Chinese person in her school. Listening to Ms. Lee's stories helped Ji-Sook think about Korea and her family there.Removing her coat, Ji-Sook moved quickly to hang it up, her dark curly bobbed hair bouncing as she skipped. Her newly permed hair felt different, but she liked the way it looked. Today Ji-Sook was wearing a favourite outfit, a knitted sweater with a matching plaid skirt. After hanging up her coat, Ji-Sook turned to face the class and noticed that along with her teacher, Ms. Lee, was Ms. Mitton and Ms. Simmee. Ji-Sook was surprised to see Ms. Mitton and Ms. Simmee at school on a Tuesday morning for they usually came in the afternoon. She greeted them happily and took another close look around the room for Ms. Jean. Ji-Sook asked Ms. Mitton where Ms. Jean was; Ms. Mitton smiled and reminded Ji-Sook that Ms. Jean would be coming Wednesday afternoon. Ji-Sook remembered to ask if Ms. Mitton would read with her during shared reading time.Ji-Sook knew it was going to be a very special day. Yesterday afternoon Ms. Lee had reminded the children that in the morning they were to begin a wonderful art project and create their own Starry Night paintings. Quickly Ji-Sook removed the book about Van Gogh, which discussed his Starry Night painting, from her backpack and, before everyone was seated, showed Ms. Lee and Ms. Simmee her book from home. The night before, she and her mother had spent time reading the book aloud. Ji-Sook felt it was much easier to read aloud in Korean than in English. Today's art lesson was out of the ordinary for she loved being able to bring things from home that fit with what they were learning in the classroom. And today was very special.Before going to her desk, Ji-Sook retrieved the poetry book that had a picture of a boy peering over the end of a sidewalk,1 Ji-Sook hurried to her desk and sat down and waited for Ms. Mitton to join her for reading. Seated with three of her classmates at a table composed of 4 desks, she smiled at Nathan, Grace, and Dana. There was so much to be excited about as she knew that after school today there were parent teacher interviews. Ji-Sook knew her mother was not working at the deli shop and was going to come to the interviews with their neighbour who would translate for her. Ji-Sook so loved it when her mother came to school. Once Ms. Mitton arrived, she and Ji-Sook spent a few minutes reading aloud together before Ms. Mitton went to join Ji-Sook's friend, Hailey, who had also asked Ms. Mitton to read with her. Ji-Sook continued to read and look at the drawings in this wonderful book.Adjusting her headset and microphone, Ms. Lee asked Ella, the class's ‘star-of-the-week’, to tap on the desks of each group to indicate that they were to come to the sharing area. Ji-Sook waited excitedly for Ella to tap her group's desks and then she hurriedly joined Grace, Nathan, Dana, and the rest of her classmates on the foam mats by the picture window. Ms. Lee began the art lesson by showing examples of Starry Night paintings completed by the students she had taught last year. Ms. Lee then shared the rubric with which Ji-Sook and her friends could assess their paintings. Ji-Sook knew that Ms. Lee worked with Mrs. D, the other Grade 3 teacher, and that students in both classes would be making the paintings. Once Ms. Lee finished explaining the steps of their art lesson, she asked Ji-Sook if she would like to come and share the book she brought from home.Sitting at the front of the class in Ms. Lee's chair and wearing her microphone, Ji-Sook read aloud from the book. The book was in Korean and Ji-Sook scanned each page quickly before explaining to the class bits and pieces about Van Gogh's life. Ji-Sook, reading from her book, explained that Van Gogh cut off his ear because he couldn’t draw his own portrait properly. Ms. Lee later returned to this detail and asked about how this piece of information in Ji-Sook's book was different from what they had previously read about the artist. The children remembered that Van Gogh cut off his ear for a woman he loved and had offered his ear as a gift to her. Ms. Lee asked the class to think about these two different pieces of information. Following this question Ms. Lee asked what the children might do to ensure the information they found was accurate. Logan suggested that reading many sources would help.Ms. Lee then drew the children's attention to Ji-Sook and said that as Ji-Sook read she was doing two things at the same time. She asked the class what they thought she was doing. Mya suggested Ji-Sook was reading and then talking. Picking up on Mya's point, Ms. Lee emphasized that Ji-Sook was reading in Korean first and then translating what she read into English. Ms. Lee asked Ji-Sook if she would like to read aloud in Korean. Ji-Sook momentarily hesitated but responded with a smile when her classmates encouraged her. Ji-Sook read one page aloud. She read quickly and the rhythm of how she read aloud in Korean sounded very different from her reading skills in English.Paper and crayons were distributed. Ji-Sook, Grace, Nathan, and Dana were quiet as they began their Starry Night paintings. Looking over the rubric that Ms. Lee had explained, Ji-Sook understood the first step today was to plan the sky and landscape of her painting. She knew the sky was to be about 2/3 of the paper and that everything she drew was to be in small dashes. It was important for the sky of her painting to look like it was moving. Ji-Sook was aware of Ms. Lee moving about the classroom, helping her classmates check, whether or not, the sky in their paintings was approximately the right size. As everyone worked, Ji-Sook heard Ms. Lee remind the class to press hard with their crayons so that the paint would have something to cling to as it dried. Taking Ms. Lee's advice seriously, Ji-Sook pressed firmly each time her crayons touched the paper, and soon her right arm grew tired. Ji-Sook now had a better idea about what Ms. Lee meant by this art project taking a long time to complete. (Interim research text based on field notes,2 November 21, 2006)

Betta is the only person there to talk to when I get home. She is my family. (Field notes, May 9, 2007)I don't know what I want but the first thing I want is for my family to come to Canada because everyone in my class has their family in Canada. (Ji-Sook's letter to Santa, December 5, 2006)

As we gradually awakened to Loyla's, Ji-Sook's, and Brent's familial curriculum making, described in earlier chapters, we grew increasingly aware of tensions shaped by their experiences in their familial and school curriculum making. Our earlier chapters show something of these tensions. In this chapter we return to a focus on tensions by exploring the tensions embodied by Loyla, Brent, and Ji-Sook as they lived in these two curriculum-making places. As we inquire into the children's embodied tensions, we do so with a sense of wanting to restory the potential of tensions on school landscapes and in composing lives. We also want to show something of ways in which attention to children's embodied tensions makes visible the gaps and silences they experienced in living in these two curriculum-making places.

The interim research text shared at the beginning of this chapter was composed from field notes and other field texts created as we lived alongside Ji-Sook in her school and home places and through conversations with Ji-Sook and with Mrs. Han. The interim research text shows something of ways in which we recognized Ji-Sook's curriculum making as interwoven with her assessment making and identity making. By tracing Ji-Sook's assessment making in this interim research text, we see that before our coming to know Ji-Sook, she and her parents were already engaged in this process. At the centre of the family's assessment making was Ji-Sook's life, the life curriculum she was composing in Korea. As described in earlier chapters, Mr. and Mrs. Han were concerned about the competitive aspects of schooling in Korea. As Ji-Sook's parents, they wanted Ji-Sook to be deeply engaged in learning in school. In part, Mr. and Mrs. Han did not want Ji-Sook's life to be shaped by the dominant social and cultural plotlines of competition for the highest grades in schools in Korea. However, they did want her to attend university. Mr. and Mrs. Han had experienced long years of studying and testing as they competed for grades that would guarantee their acceptance into a Korean university. This was not what Mr. and Mrs. Han wanted for Ji-Sook's life, for her identity making. It was their dream of a “happier” childhood for Ji-Sook that shaped the family's immigration to Canada.

As we engaged in this research, we returned to the earliest uses of the term curriculum making that we could find. We were not surprised to learn that curriculum making is most commonly used to refer to making the planned or mandated curriculum (Jackson, 1968) and not in reference to the curriculum making in which teachers and children engage in classroom and schools (Clandinin & Connelly, 1992). However, in our search, we read Cremin (1971), who drew our attention to William Torrey Harris, a school superintendent in the St. Louis school system in the United States during the 1870s. As Cremin wrote,What is of special interest is rather the analytical paradigm. There is the learner, self-active and self-willed by virtue of his humanity and thus self-propelled into the educative process; there is the course of study, organized by responsible adults with appropriate concern for priority, sequence, and scope; there are materials of instruction which particularize the course of study; there is the teacher who encourages and mediates the process of instruction; there are the examinations which appraise it; and there is the organizational structure within which it proceeds and within which large numbers of individuals are enabled simultaneously to enjoy its benefits. All the pieces were present for the game of curriculum-making that would be played over the next half-century; only the particular combinations and the players would change. (p. 210)

Janice Huber is an associate professor in pre-service and graduate teacher education at the University of Regina. She is a former elementary teacher and teacher researcher who, with Karen Keats Whelan, coauthored a relational, paper-formatted doctoral dissertation. Growing from doctoral and post-doctoral study, Janice's collaborative narrative inquiries and publications, including the award-winning book, Composing Diverse Identities: Narrative Inquiries into the Interwoven Lives of Children and Teachers, continue to explore narrative understandings of identity in relation with Aboriginal teachers and Elders in Canada and in relation with the curriculum-, identity-, and assessment-making experiences of children, families, and teachers. She is the 2006 recipient of the Narrative Research SIG (AERA) Early Career Award.

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Advances in Research on Teaching
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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