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95. How to Facilitate District-Wide Teacher-Led Curriculum Development with Dr. Steven Weber

by Lindsay Lyons
November 22nd 2022
In today's episode, we have guest speaker and instructional leader Dr. Steven Weber here to discuss how we can facilit... More
get ready for a wonderful conversation with Dr steven weber. Dr steven weber serves as the associate superintendent for teaching and learning with Fayetteville public schools during his career in public education. He has served as a teacher assistant principal principal director of secondary instruction and executive director of curriculum and instruction. He is the president of the Arkansas Association of curriculum and instruction administrators. He also serves as a board member with Arkansas A. S. C. D. And on the A. S. C. D. Legislative committee. Throughout his career, he has been elected to serve on multiple state and national boards. Dr Weber is a podcast Panelist and education blogger. His articles have been published with A S. C D N A E S P p D. K International and teach better. He post professional articles and tools for curriculum leaders on twitter at curriculum blog in 2019 he was named the A. C. I. A. Arkansas Association of curriculum instruction administrators, administrator of the year.

This award recognizes outstanding leadership in the field of education and curriculum and instruction and based on our conversation, I can tell you exactly why he received this award. There is some phenomenal conversation about to go down get excited for the episode. Here we go. I'm educational justice coach, lindsey Lyons and here on the time for teacher ship podcast we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings, if you're a principal Assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nursing out about co creating curriculum with students, I made this show for you. Here we go, dr steven weaver, Welcome to the time for Teacher ship podcast. Thank you, I'm so excited you're here and I'd love to know, you know, is there anything that listeners should know about you?

Um I just read your, your bio at the start of the episode, but is there anything they should know or keep in mind as we jump into the conversation today in my current role. I'm an instructional leader, but I think we're all instructional leaders. Teachers are instructional leaders, Assistant principals, english language Arts director, Assistant superintendent. So I think we're all instructional leaders at different levels and the students and families who we serve are counting on us to be leaders. So I really like to focus on instructional leadership and leadership in general. Multiplying other leaders and giving support back to the field. Um at some point in my career, I would go from one job to the next and a teacher or an assistant principal or a colleague would support me or help me get to the next level or would help me present at a conference. So that's what I get the most out of is just giving back to our profession. I love that. I love the emphasis on really making more leaders, right? Like if we can exponentially increase the number of leaders. That's that's that's amazing. And I can't remember. There's actually quote on my website about that to mary parker Filet maybe.

Um but yeah, it's like really, really powerful when we can do that. I'm all about student voice and student leadership. So you know, can we even have the students be some of those leaders? Amazing, awesome. So thinking about like what we can do and that that big thinking, um what do you say is your big dream for curriculum and instruction? And I'm often informed when I asked this big dream question by dr Bettina loves quote about freedom dreaming where she describes dreams as grounded in the critique of injustice. I'm certainly informed by understanding by design. It's now over 25 years old of Wiggins and Mukti, but I'm informed by that and the the concept of transfer. So what I want to see students do is transfer their knowledge in the same class in the next year. And in adult life, I want to see them be able to transfer those skills and those concepts and I don't want to see um compliance. I don't want to see students just going through the motions to earn a grade, but I want to see students and we can call that personalized learning or we can call that whatever we like.

But I want to see students transfer. And so, so sometimes during covid that was difficult. Sometimes we had so many barriers that we went back to compliance. If you turn this in, even if it's 10 days late, you'll get the grade. And so I think some students have been trained in 7th, 8th, 9th grade. If I just do it, I'll get the grade and I can go to the next class. I want to return to that joy of learning that we had pre covid, But I also want to return to where student voice student choice and I can contribute. Some people would call it universal design for learning, but I want to return to transfer. And to me, it's like, show me the beef or where's the beef? I misquoted it. Where's the beef? The Wendy's commercial? And if there's no evidence, then did the students really learn it? But I'm all about the transfer. Yeah. That makes so much sense. And there's so much in the world that's happening that, you know, things are always happening that are relevant to what we're teaching. And so it's like, you know, can we have that, I don't know, we always talk about like we want to get them to college and career and that that's really important that they're successful there.

But there's also so much in the world happening at the moment and students can use so many skills that we teach in school in the moment right before they graduate. So I think that's a wonderful idea of like how does this transfer into life right into spaces in other classes or outside of classes. Yeah, When you say in the moment, I think of the term relevance and to a lot of our students, today's education is not relevant. It's the way we learned it, but it's no longer relevant. So can we use social media or can we use Tiktok videos or can we use Youtube? Can we use the skills that they use in their own personal time on their phones or in their own time on a friday night when they're hanging out with their friends, what can we use? And then they can show transfer in their own way rather than on a worksheet or rather than some of our google classroom has turned into just google worksheets. So I know that green Covid a lot of things shut down and we were just trying to make it through day to day some weeks. But how can we help students use their skills and make it relevant.

And I really think that's a key. It's not innovative. We've always tried to be relevant, but what's relevant today wasn't relevant when I was a teacher when I started my career in education. Yeah. Such an important point. And even from year to year, right? Like once Covid had a lot of things became irrelevant that were relevant the year before and vice versa. So yeah, such an important key term and key concept there that we need to be thinking about is designed curriculum. You mentioned year to year is such a great conversation already, but you mentioned year to year and I think student to student class to class. So just because it's relevant to third period doesn't mean that fourth period well think it's relevant. We have different students, different backgrounds, different cultures, different interests and hobbies and we have to make it relevant and that's where we need to provide a little bit more choice in our assignments, Not not saying the kids don't all have to do the exact same skill or, you know, if courage is the theme in the L. A class, we can give them choice in the novel that they read rather than making every student read the exact same novel, wow, what a good point.

Yeah, like I and I think this is why I land on, you know, my advice is always for teachers to create their own curriculum for their students in that year in that moment and just, you know, obviously finding a sustainable way to do that, but you're right that fourth period and third period are going to be, you know, different different kids and like different interests and different all sorts of things. And so I think when we bring the different backgrounds and experience and interests into the class as as as teachers, but also seeing that in our students, like how do we respond to that and how do we, you know, that's, that's the big key. And I think this brings me to my next question of, that's a big lift for teachers, right? To design their own curriculum. I know you've, you've experienced leading this right in your own district, is designing curriculum that's very teacher led. And I'm wondering like is there a mindset uh struggle or was there a shift in people's minds that needed to be made to be able to take that on? Because that, that is a big lift to design curriculum from the ground up versus you know, pull something off the shelf or, or whatever and use something that's already been created.

We do two activities in our school district and I didn't create the activities. The first activity is from Stephen Covey, a very old dated YouTube video that we use with the big rocks and the little pebbles. And we identify the big rocks in the math curriculum. What are the big rocks? The key skills and the key concepts that must be learned in third grade must be learned in Algebra two. And we use flip chart posters and we go around the room in order from K through 12 and we identify the big Rocks and then we do a gallery walk. I notice I wonder to see what other teachers and other grade levels think could be missing or oh, why do we teach that in fourth grade, But we don't teach you again until sixth grade. And so the Big Rocks activity can be done in any district. Very simple activity. We watched the video and after the video, we identify our Big rocks quite often. Your state standards have big rocks. And if you unpack those or if you used to ask a veteran teacher that's been teaching for three or more years, they will quickly tell you what the Big Rocks are because they've taught the class so many times.

A second activity that we do is a swot analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And I know some people roll their eyes because some districts overuse that, that tool, but that tool has been very effective for us in, in curriculum design. So our teachers come from all of our schools. We have 16 schools and we have representatives from every school for every time. We do a different program or curriculum area. So if we were doing science, we'd have our teachers in the room and we have done science two years ago and with the teachers in the room, they would identify the strengths of the program. Maybe we have good materials or maybe a weakness is we don't have good materials. They're outdated or maybe an opportunity is we need to bring in more guest speakers because we're right by the University of Arkansas and we're not currently utilizing scientists and grad students from the University of Arkansas. So that's an opportunity and a threat could be, um, during Covid we couldn't go on field trips. So that, that was a threat. But you know, this year we're hoping to return to more science field trips.

So hopefully the threat can be removed. So through identifying the things that are going well and the things that are opportunities or threats were able to just identify our own solutions and no one's really dumping the problems on me or no one's dumping the problems on the high school or the elementary school teachers saying they didn't teach it. We're starting with the Big Rocks and then eventually we get to learning targets essential questions. We move towards transfer sky skills and a lot of this is understanding by design, but you can use whatever template you like and eventually identify what the Big Rocks are for your school district and then you just have to have collective commitments from the teachers saying we agree or we commit that we are going to teach these. Um, you're not telling anybody a script. You're just saying these are the Big rocks. These are the essentials and how you teach your science lab or which guest speaker you bring to your class could vary from one school to the next. I mean, you may have a parent at your school that's really good that just wants to speak at your school and that's okay because every student is going to get the guaranteed Big Rocks.

I love that. Yes. I always, I think I always call them priority standards, but I think Big Rocks priority standards standards, a little more professional. I love it. And so I love also that personalized touch as well that I, I imagine teachers can buy into this or I don't know if I like the concept of buying, but like, you know, they're on board with this, They're excited, They're committed to this because like, oh, I can still bring in that, that parent, I can still do it this way. I can, I can still have my own personalized version of this for each period of different students as we discussed, but you're still making sure that everyone gets the essentials like the essential core and what they need. I'm wondering is that, is that key to having that commitment or I know you mentioned the collective commitment being very important. Was there any, are there any tips for anyone who's kind of doing this right now in terms of getting everyone to that point of collective commitment And and was there any struggle in that as you as you kind of lead this? I Think there are three different ways.

You can create a district curriculum. I think you can purchase it and there's several quality books or online materials that you can purchase. I think you can have a director of maths in an office all day and write it. But I don't think one person is as good as 40 or 50 teachers. We used over 50 teachers on our math task force and then finally you could have a task force or a team of teachers write it. So I think those are three ways and you may be able to think of four or five ways, but those are three general ways that districts use. And you ask me about feedback or buy in. I think you get more buy in from that third category where teachers have voice and choice, just like we want students to have voice and choice and teachers identify the barriers and they identify common student misconceptions. I'm a curriculum designer, but I don't know K 12 math and I don't know K 12, any subject, most of us taught two or three grade levels or we stayed in elementary or we stayed in junior high our whole career and then we became a director or an assistant superintendent. So I think it's, I think it's just better to ask the people who do the work and that's where I think you get the buy in from just like in a business if it's top down, they used to call it the ivory tower, if it's top down and it's handed to the people on the work floor, there's gonna be complaining and frustration.

So I'm not saying we don't have complaining, But we do our complaining when we're, when we're identifying the strengths and the weaknesses and the threats to our program and people take pride in the program that they helped build? So yes, I think you should let the teacher leaders build the program and then you have to have an implementation plan and the absence of an implementation plan. It's like the old fashioned standards. When they first came out in the 80s, they were shrink wrapped and people would hand them to teachers and teachers would take their standards and put them on a shelf and sometimes you'd see that the shrink wrap was still on it three years later. So you you can't give people a google doc and say, here's, here's everything here, the big rocks and hope that it happens. You have to have an implementation plan. And I think teachers can be helpful in the implementation plan to, but I'm not a big fan of a script where on day one, every teacher is teaching the exact same way. And I think that disrespects teacher autonomy, but I realize some districts are a little more formal and they have their own policies.

That's the way they want to do it. But I think teachers are professionals and we should treat them like professionals. Yes. Excellent sentiment. I totally agree. And and you've kind of walked us through this whole process of how, how you've gone through and and everyone, I think you said 50 teachers and just in, in just for math, wow, that's that's bananas. So, okay, so is there any other kind of process step, if someone's listening to this, I'm just thinking, you know, they're they're wanting to do something similar. Is there anything else that you would say in terms of either, how, how you got everyone to come in, was it like sign ups, was it like recommendations for for who's going to be part of this and kind of, what's that like start to finish process of what they went through? Like kind of like, I'm also wondering the time frame of, you know, when was this work done? And how long did it take them to do all this? There are some pros and cons are process. We don't do it during the summertime because most of our teachers don't want to do it during the summertime, but in some districts, teachers may prefer to do summer work.

And and so that would be preferred because the the con is that you're taking teacher, your some of your best teachers out of the classroom seven or eight times a year. And at the high school level on a block schedule that can be challenging for high school teachers and all the sub plans they have to create, but we don't do it in the same month, we stretch it from september until april and then we take it before the school board in late spring and we ask them to review our curriculum and they have a first review in a second review. And if it's approved, then it becomes the board approved curriculum. And so then we do expect our teachers to teach it because our board has approved that this is what will be taught. But unlike in the early days of my career where curriculum was five or six years before anybody could touch it, it was hard copy, it was published, it was it was finished. Now we have a living document. So our eighth grade teachers before the first week of school got together and they were working on their math curriculum and making some tweaks and some changes to the first quarter.

So we don't give everyone editing rights, but a few people have editing rights. And then the will of the group is to continue to make the curriculum better for the for this program and for the students we serve and and to be able to be in the room when it's happening, you're saying they come together seven or eight times a year. Or is that like one representative from each school? It sounds like there's a lot more than that for each department. And do they exist in departments? They do this work as a K 12 band. We have multiple representatives per school. And you want to have at least four people per grade level, ideally five or six people, but minimum four people per grade level because it's a lot for somebody, right? It's been the most difficult for our counselors and our pe teachers or librarians who have to write an entire elementary curriculum when we get first grade, the first grade teacher can just focus on first grade math. But our our electives teachers have to write every single grade level and that's a little bit harder.

They don't have as much help. But it's been very effective. We've done it with world languages, we've done it with multiple subject areas and there is teacher buy in because they're having a professional conversation. They're reflecting on what works and doesn't work and they're bringing their best resources. You hear teachers pay teachers and other places where people sell their resources or sell something they've created and we have some teachers who do that as well, but In our process they're able to share. We had a teacher that was a 30-year veteran and he was retiring from science. He's able to put his best hyperlinks and his best videos and teacher created resources in a document in his final year of his career. And now the next teacher that takes his class is gonna have all this expertise. And before we had this process in place, We would just said, thank you appreciate your 30 years of service and we would have lost all of that expertise. So I think some of the veteran teachers see this as a passing of the torch to the next generation or possibly the teacher who takes their class.

And I think it's very rewarding for them to be a part of the task force, but we also encourage younger teachers, so we try to have diverse perspectives and we don't get all of our veteran teachers only. I love that, that the diversity of perspectives and and the passing all of those materials on super valuable. It's it makes me like almost cringe when I think about like not having a space for that to be passed on and you just retire and then that's it. That's all all that expertise goes away. Like wow, I never thought about that. Um so I'm curious to know, did you do several like in doing this, did you do several subjects at the same time in the same year? Do you do like one or two subjects each year? Like what's the timeline for for doing this? Because this is major work. The school board approved a timeline about six years ago and the timelines posted on our, on our website for our teachers. So they know in two years my subjects coming up, we reached a point where so many teachers said I need new materials or I need new textbooks that we couldn't afford to do it every year.

So this allowed us to spread it out. So we also review materials after we create a curriculum or sometimes some RP teachers last year purchased the spark curriculum for high school, that's a national curriculum, they purchased it. And so sometimes we purchase a curriculum rather than writing it. But but even with the purchase curriculum, they still identified their big rocks. Yes, that's so smart to do. So there's still that alignment that happens. I have heard you say before that paying teachers is really critical to this, this work as well. Right? And so I'm wondering if you have any advice for leaders who are thinking, yeah, I would love to to pay teachers to do this work. But I also, I'm not sure, you know where to where to find it in the budget or even you're saying during the school year, you know, you're taking them out of classes 78 times a week. I imagine you're hiring subs for for that time and and any tips for the logistics of how to do this. I Think it can be cost prohibitive for school districts and that's why I think a lot of school districts don't take the time to do it because even a substitute could be $100-$200 a day depending on which state you're in.

And so you take that times 50 teachers every time you meet that's cost prohibitive. So our teachers don't have money coming into their pocket because they're already under contract when they're working. But I do say that if you're going to have teachers do it after hours or in the summer too. It would be unethical to ask them to just come in and write curriculum without, without being paid, so our teachers are paid by their contract, but the money for us comes from a very large fee that we pay to substitute teachers. And that once again is a downside. Um You've got a child that's struggling in math class and you've got a great teacher and they're out seven or eight times during the year. They're out right before a big test and a review that that's hard on somebody else's child. So we've heard some concerns from time to time from parents saying I wish my child's teacher wasn't out of the class so often. So seven or eight times is not that much, but it does add up over the course of a school year and it is hard on the teachers who are constantly making sub plans, but we're very proud of our teachers and very proud of the products that they've produced, None of our groups ever finished uh and say, oh it's perfect.

It's exactly the way we wanted. They're very critical of their work. And I have to remind them that we need to go ahead and take this forward to the board because this is a lot more and a lot better quality than we had when we started the process 12 months ago. But people say, oh but unit four, I'm embarrassed and that's where unit four can be improved when you come back to school in the fall, a team of teachers can make unit for better. But some people say we don't have rubrics, we wanted to add rubrics for some of our C. F. A. S. And you can make rubrics but you have to start somewhere. And so we're looking forward to the second time we go through the curriculum review process because we feel like we won't have to do some of these things. We we can go deeper with projects or with assessments and go deeper and we're really proud of the work of our teachers in Fayetteville public schools. That's amazing. Oh wow, you should be absolutely proud. That is like incredible work. That's that's happening. And I love your humility to and just saying, you know, there's this isn't a perfect system, but but I I imagine that you came to the conclusion that even 78 times, you know?

Yes, it is a lot of times to be absent from the school year as a teacher, but it's worth it in the amazing curriculum that was created right? That that as we go forward, we have this brilliant curriculum that's going to positively impact students every single day, that they get that new curriculum as well. Right? Yes, I'm glad you said it that way Lindsay the process versus the product, I think very early in your career uh Central office staff member Assistant Superintendent could really focus on, we're gonna have three days and in the end we're gonna have a pacing guide or we're gonna have a product, we're gonna have a curriculum map. And I think early in my career I focused on the product, I just drove people to get to the product and I did a lot of those three day summer crash courses or you know, two hours back to school. Let's get everybody in job like groups and let's identify the big skills, big rocks in two hours. Well there's not really a curriculum, you may have a product but it's not a curriculum and it's not very high quality.

So you have to give people time, you have to give people time to reflect and then you have to give people time to revise and edit. And I feel like we've done that in our district, but I also feel like um so many districts just focus on the finished product and really the value is when they go out to lunch. Um They get to go out to lunch for an hour, which they never get to do as teachers and they get to go to a restaurant and be an adult. And the first time they go out all the high school teachers go out in the same car and a couple of cars together and then next time I see him the next month it's a high school teacher and a junior high teacher in an elementary teacher and you start to see the program grow because now they're just bonding over lunch and then when they come back, they're not in isolated groups. They're actually sharing strategies about K. 12. And so the process really does help us as a school system grow, grow teacher leaders, but also grow our program to where we're not looking at, why didn't elementary teachers teach that? So it can start off in the beginning with a blame game.

But over time I think the process is much more valuable than any final product we've produced. Wow in that process seems to contribute really positively to just like the school culture and the district culture and the band. You know, the grade bands like you were saying, going to lunch together, that's something that you don't get in other spaces. And this is such a unique opportunity for, for that to grow like you said that, Oh, that's so cool. Uh so one of the other things I want to ask you before we're out of time here is your district's curriculum includes discussions of current events and and making things relevant as you said to students and you know, what's going on right now. And so I'd love if you could just speak to any challenges you, I either you as a leader or your teachers have faced, talking about issues of justice or injustice and maybe how you've helped teachers navigate those challenges. Thank you for asking that I think every school district needs to approach current events through what's best for their local policy in their community, but I also think that some school districts have been running the other way and dodging current events and I don't think that's a good way to educate our youth because they're going to end up making critical choices and decisions, they'll become voters and they need to know how to make decisions based on current events.

Some of the current events have maybe not been age appropriate over the last five years. I remember when I was a child, the teachers rolled in the tv cart and they said we just got back from p and they said we want to show you something, this is history and the space shuttle was about to go up and christa mcauliffe and the astronauts, the space shuttle exploded and I'm thinking this is traumatic, why in the world would they show this to us? But they didn't know that that was gonna happen when they showed it to us. We kind of watched it live and so that was my childhood. But now kids see things on their phones and passing periods and they think see things related to politics or videos pop up and they may walk into class and say I want to talk about this, this just happened, this was a protest or this was a major world event and this just happened. What do you think about it? Mr jones and mr jones, there is not prepared to talk about it. He he wasn't prepared, but things happen in real time now on people's phones and kids have enquiring minds and they're carrying the phones around.

So rather than waiting for the news to come to them, it comes straight to their phones through alerts and just through videos. So I think that what we have to do is approach this from an age appropriate stance. We have to ask ourselves what's age appropriate. There's certainly things that are good for Ap US history class, they're not good for fourth grade U. S. History class. I think besides age appropriate, we have to take a neutral stance. Sometimes teachers across the United States get in trouble with families and school boards because they have let their bias or they have let their religious views or their political views come into the classroom and in a public school our job is not to teach students um exactly what to think about an issue. Our job is to teach kids how to think so they can think on their own and come up with their own student voice and student choice. And I think that there are plenty of guidelines out there. Whether you go to National Council for Social Studies, you go to facing history and ourselves teaching tolerance learning forward.

There are resources and I civics, their their national resources out there with videos right now for free that say here's a here's an age appropriate neutral way to approach current events. The new york times for years has produced current events for free online for teachers they'll have a current event and then they'll have different grade spans. I think we have to understand our community, understand what's going on in our community. So for example if I'm if I'm near a military base things are gonna be a little bit more sensitive if parents have just been sent off to war and I may be able to have a conversation that's different in five states away than I can near a military base. So I have to know my students know their families know what they do for a living. I know how this experience could possibly impact students and students have been through a lot of trauma the last two years whether it's covid or things they've seen on tv or experiences that their families have had. So I think we have to be careful about bringing trauma into the classroom.

So trauma is not so much what we're trying to do. But we're trying to educate the whole child A. S. C. D. Has great resources on the on the whole child. So if you look at the A. S. C. D. Whole child indicators then you would ask myself, am I approaching this from a whole child perspective and the final advice I'd give to anyone who's listening is that sometimes we need to pause we need to push pause as educators because if we're too emotionally charged and current events can, can have us very um angry or sad or depressed. We may not be in a frame of mind to facilitate a conversation with a group of eighth graders. They may say something that gets us very angry or we may become very emotional or we may say something to where our own personal or political opinion comes out in a classroom. And so I think we don't have to teach it today just because the kids are excited about or just because it's all over the news, We don't have to teach it today. We can teach it next week and we've had more time to talk with our colleagues about how are we can approach this, We can talk with our counselors and social workers about.

Is this age appropriate? The way I'm trying to roll this out. There are other professionals in the building who can help us through the lesson because we typically have lesson plans and unit plans with key skills, key concepts, essential questions and during understandings. But with current events, Sometimes we try to jump in the deep end and that's when we get in trouble and then kids go home and tell their parents are now, kids will take the phone out and video you while you're teaching and they'll say they'll put it out there for the whole world to see. My teacher said this. So we do need to be very intentional with current events, but I don't think we need to stop teaching current events. I think current events are great for class. I think sometimes teachers get in trouble when they're in math class and they're teaching a history lesson, then the parent says, why are you talking about that during algebra one? So you have to be cautious. Also about is this class lend itself to this current event. But um, understand the students in your class, understand their age, understand the community kind of values and norms and definitely push kids to think and push kids to think critically because that's the beauty of public schools, but don't push kids to where a student in the class feels unsafe to answer the question because you're, you're pushing something so strong or you're pushing an angle so strong that 24 kids feel this way and the teacher feels this way and the one student who wants to debate it or wants to oppose, it feels psychologically unsafe to speak their voice because you framed the lesson or the conversation in a way that now it's the whole class versus this student and when they go out in the hallway or to the next class, they could be picked on by other kids because the adult in the room didn't facilitate that from a neutral stance, wow so many things you said, just resonates so much that that last piece, I think really makes me think of like absolutely, like we want everyone to be able to share whatever whatever it is, as long as they're coming from a place of you know, maintaining the dignity of everyone else right?

We're not like violating someone else's rights or or or dignity is like worth as a human being, right? And and and as long as we have that so many other things are possible, right? Like we can take a neutral stance as long as we uphold dignity. And like I always come back to that because I think if if people are listening and are like, well how do you do this? For me? It's it's oversimplified probably as an answer, but if we co create agreements for discussion or for the class at the start of the year and we return to them and one of those where they all really stem from like upholding the dignity or upholding the value of of being human of everyone in the group, then we can do all of these other things right? We can have these tough conversations because that's our line right of like we're not going to violate someone else's dignity. We can disagree about how to how to go about this, right? Like, oh you think this problem should be solved this, but you think this way, but we're not saying anyone is invalid as a human, we can we can then have the conversation right. And I think another thing I was just thinking as you're talking about the importance of relevant and current events, right, is the phrase you said, kids are saying, I want to talk about it.

Like how exciting is that when a student comes into like I want to talk right? Like let's let's jump on that and let's use that for good, right? For joe generating that excitement, enthusiasm. You want the kids talking in your class and so this is a great opportunity to be able to do that. Um And finally you mentioned age appropriate, which I think is such a good point as well. I love that you named it as making sure what we're doing is age appropriate? Not necessarily like avoiding current events because I think that for me, I was thinking about the Dobbs B Jackson decision at the Supreme Court level. Like you said, the ap history teacher, like they can go into that like what is Supreme Court precedent and you know, all the logistics of that. But a kindergarten teacher could still approach like bodily autonomy. Like if a kid comes in and says, my mom was talking about my body my choice. What does that even mean? Like, like when johnny you know, doesn't want to be hugged, we don't hug johnny. Like okay, that's all the lesson needed to be like, we still maintain the theme and we can still address the question um oh the last thing I want to comment on was you, I love what you said about, we don't have to teach it today, right?

Like unless harm is immediately being done in the moment. Um then I might, you know, talk about it like the trauma that's so traumatic that you you will watch the child to explode like live and in television. Like I might like address that with the class, right? And have a have a process of that um to just like debrief but if harm isn't done immediately and it's more of an intellectual like, oh we're gonna debate this or we're gonna talk about this thing that happened. Yeah, definitely take the time to just think about what resource do I wanna pull in here and how are we going to frame the question so that we're not putting someone's dignity up for debate. Like, I think that would be a really powerful recommendation for teachers who are nervous about the work, but who know it's important to do. Um so just so much brilliance that you shared. Thank you so much. It's really sad that our politicians and our our adults and some of our community leaders around the United States are arguing in such a way that they've lost the political discourse. So growing up, I could see political discourse and I think, wow, that was really an educated debate.

Now, a lot of politicians when they have debates for local or state elections, it's not a debate, it's just mudslinging and there's never really a conversation that takes place. So I think our students are growing up in a world where they think it's like a talk show where you just scream at people to get your point across. So the beauty of current events in a classroom and a K. 12 classroom if it's age appropriate is that they can learn how to have those conversations in a respectful manner. And then if there ever on a city council there, if there ever apparent at a P. T. O. Meeting, they can come in and they can explain their opinion and maybe a counter opinion in a professional manner in an adult manner. But um teaching kids as you said, having that contractor, having that norms of this is how we treat our classmates and it's okay to agree to disagree or teaching them phrases because a lot of times they've never seen it modeled in their generation on how you agree to disagree and you don't just scream at the person or hang up the phone or turn off the video on zoom.

How do you end the conversation respectfully and and walk away from the table where you can come back the next time and share your point and and still be respected because you didn't disrespect the other person. So I think there's so much that can come out of teaching current events and I think it's a great thing for our teachers to do. But I think it is becoming more and more complicated because school shootings. I mean kids want to talk about something like that. But once again, that's a very delicate subject dealing with death of of Children that are the same ages of Children in my class. And so it's very delicate subjects that we're dealing with. And unfortunately our world seems to have current event weekly. So I don't think you need to avoid current events, but I think you certainly need to have some sort of district guidelines and some sort of agreements on how you will approach them in a way that is educational and it is not political. Yeah, that's such a good example of, of school shootings and students wanting to talk about those. I was just in a workshop the other day where someone was saying um that that's as an elementary school teacher that students are coming in asking those questions, Am I safe here?

Right? What is this going to happen here? What a terrifying question to have to address. And and we we kind of thought about it for a little bit and I think having a framing of something, if that is I'm imagining a lot of listeners are having that experience where students are asking questions like this. And so we we came to, you know what if we framed the discussion around like what does safety look like at school or what would it mean to be safe and and thriving and like if we start in that orientation where it's less traumatic to think of, what's the terrible thing that could happen instead? How do we build up this community of, of safety and um connection and belonging and all the things that are going to, you know, um ideally prevent something like this from happening. Like then we're kind of addressing the question, but in a, in a way that's not as traumatic as talking about about death again, thinking about the age appropriate response and conversation. Um yeah, wow! Oh my gosh! So so many things I realized we've been chatting for so long, I'll move to kind of some of my final questions here, but so much brilliance you shared today?

I'm wondering if there's one thing that as a leader is like, okay, I want to do like these 100 things that that Stephen talked about, is there something you would say would be like a good first step or like a momentum builder that people could get started with, related to any topic or related to current events? Any, anything we've talked about really? Hi everyone dr weaver and I are talking a lot about curriculum development in the various stages of that. So a quick reminder that you have a free resource available to you, which is a which stage of curriculum development am I in quiz, grab it at lindsey Beth Lyons dot com slash blog slash 95. Now, let's get back to our conversation with dr Webber, entire year, your grade level team or your high school department sit down and look at the first quarter. What are the big rocks in the first quarter that you will guarantee every learner gets exposed to? They may not understand it, but you're going to teach it well and you're going to teach it deeply. What are the key questions or essential questions? What are the enduring understandings and what does it look like in our class or our grade level during the first quarter for this subject?

Say it's say it's english language arts. What are we really going to be intentional about? Because a lot of things were disrupted during covid, including instruction, traditional units, hands on learning, uh, maybe students being close in proximity to each other in some states. So if things were disrupted, the way to get more clarity and more focused on what our priorities are, is to have a quarter at a glance and I'm not saying any day district leadership needs to come in and do that. Um, you know, teachers can do that at your level or at your school building level and once you have that clarity of your quarter at a glance, maybe identify some finish lines. So rather than saying we're gonna start school in september and we're gonna finish in the spring, a finish line is in three weeks, mid september, we're gonna have a celebration. So every three weeks, three weeks, six weeks, nine weeks have a celebration. And I think more teachers need to have shorter finish lines because we get excited when we get close to winter break, we get excited when we get close to spring break, so create more finish lines in your curriculum.

So if you have quarter to glance, you're gonna have three finish lines or three times to stop and check your pulse and then you're gonna celebrate with a sonic drink or whatever it is that makes your group happy and your team's gonna say we did it, we made it to the finish line, so create more finish lines within each quarter, but start by having a quarter at a glance, wow, that is brilliant. I've never thought about that. That is so good. Okay, so final or or next to final question, what is something you have been learning about lately or if I know you do a lot of like blogging and things like that, something that you've been helping others to learn about either or. The biggest thing I've learned during covid is the importance of teacher leadership at every level. I mean there were teachers who were good at technology, helping people who didn't know how to teach via technology. There were teachers who were great at teaching math that were helping other teachers who were first year math teachers. There were teachers who were given the principles ideas on how they could do things when we came back from um teaching online and we're saying, hey the kids just aren't, they're not getting it, think they're not getting back in the routine.

Let's try this. We couldn't have assemblies. So let's do it, let's do a zoom assembly, a school wide assembly virtually and give out awards that way. So teacher leaders were really, if you don't have teacher leaders, you gotta start right now finding the leader in your school and give them a leadership platform. And I think when you believe in somebody and you say, I think you're a leader, I think I'm gonna get get you in charge of this committee or I think that you could help lead this professional development because you're so talented at this, whatever it is, coding or steam. And next thing you know, they're leading a faculty meeting or they're leading a district wide meeting or representing your team on a district math curriculum task force and that person starts to seeing themselves and I'm not saying they're all going to become assistant principals because not everybody wants to be an assistant principal. But quite often we build a leadership pipeline of future administrators and we forget to build into the teacher leaders because the teacher leaders are really the foundation of really K-12 public schools, so build more leaders and find the current teacher leaders in your building and ask them who are two or three other people that you could invest in this year.

So they could become the next teacher leader in our school. Oh, I love that. That's so good. Um so lastly after all of the great stuff you've shared, I'm sure people are gonna want to continue following you, reading your blogs, all of that. So where do people connect with you online? I write articles for teach better and that's where my articles are posted on teach better blog and I post articles and resources and tools for educators at on twitter at curriculum blog. Amazing! Thank you. Dr steven weber. You have been an amazing guest. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. If you're leaving this episode, wanting more, you're going to love my live coaching intensive curriculum boot camp. I help one department or grade team create feminist anti racist curricula that challenges affirms and inspires all students. We leave current events into course content and amplify students which skyrockets engagement and academic achievement. It energizes educators feeling burned out and it's just two days plus you can reuse the same process any time you create a new unit which saves time and money.

If you can't wait to bring this to your staff, I'm inviting you to sign up for a 20 minute call with me, grab a spot on my calendar at www dot lindsey Beth Lyons dot com slash contact until next time leaders continue to think Big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the teach better podcast network, Better Today, Better Tomorrow and the podcast. To get you there, explore more podcasts at teach Better dot com slash podcasts, and we'll see you at the next episode.

95. How to Facilitate District-Wide Teacher-Led Curriculum Development with Dr. Steven Weber
95. How to Facilitate District-Wide Teacher-Led Curriculum Development with Dr. Steven Weber
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