“I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”
When teaching M.A. TESOL students how to design a course, I like to compare curriculum development to constructing a building. The building blocks of a course are important enough to the overall design that the entire structure can collapse without careful planning and solid materials, not to mention skillful execution. But if like the third little pig we construct and conduct with wisdom, the big bad wolves–time limitations, uncooperative students, large classes, or unexpected power outages, for example–might huff and puff, but they won’t ruffle us or our plans.
The Building Blocks
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring some of the building blocks of teaching in more depth, but in brief:
- Needs: Constructing and conducting a course begins with learners’ needs, the gap between where they are and need to be in order to meet their expectations (though not necessarily their wants) and take them down the path toward their requisite destination.
- Goals/Outcomes: Based on learners’ needs, we set goals for our course which play into the outcomes for each unit, lesson, and activity. Goals point us toward the destination, where students should “come out” by the end of each activity and then the course.
- Activities: We design units and lessons made up of individual activities that take students down the paths we’ve identified.
- Execution: We execute those activities in the classroom with a finesse we may struggle to find as we face off the big bad wolves of teaching.
- Parameters: All this is done within the parameters of the curriculum we are given or the textbook we are assigned. These are the structuring tools for our course.
- Assessment & Reflection: Throughout, we regularly step back both to assess whether or not our students are reaching the destination and to reflect on what we might need to do differently in order to get them there.
If learner’s needs are the first building block, then are they the foundation? I asked my Practicum in TESOL students this question, and they readily agreed that instead there is some underlying moral principle. They see it as combining elements of being models of virtue and teaching virtue to our students.
For followers of the Master Teacher, He is that moral principle. He is the foundation of everything we do, and this foundation affects every aspect of our teaching. We attempt to meet students’ needs not because we’re supposed to but out of love like the Master Teacher’s. We take them down earthly paths toward human destinations as a means of pointing them in a heavenly direction. We plan for and execute activities with finesse not so that students worship at the feet of our living statue, a monument to self, but in order to crawl on the altar as a living sacrifice. We assess student learning and reflect on our teaching not to crown them or self with accomplishment but to lay our crowns at the feet of Yahweh.
Constructing and conducting a course involves a lot of huffing and puffing especially if we hope to withstand the big bad wolves that interfere with teaching and learning. Weak building blocks, though perhaps easily installed, are gone in a poof when tested by wind or fire. But the gold and silver of wise planning and the jewels of skilled execution and follow-up will endure, especially when erected on the forever Rock.