Sunday, April 10, 2011

Curriculum, Rubrics and Things People Say

cur·ric·u·lum  (k-rky-lm)
Origin: L, lit., a running course, race, career
latincurrere, to run
a fixed series of studies required, as in a college, for graduation,
qualification in a major field of study, etc.

I love questions. Well, some questions, the ones that cut to the chase. Certain questions are fun, like, "Does God have favorite colors?" He does use blue and green alot. Some questions are tricky.
How about these:

Where is the line that separates contentment and apathy?

When does confidence become arrogance?

What is the value of a teardrop, or a timely word?

And then, there are questions that chafe our minds, leaving blisters on our pride. These are the questions that speak to underlying issues. These are the questions we pose to ourselves. A few weeks ago a parent said to me, "I don't even know what you do." What I do? I was offended. For nearly two years her child has been a student in my art classes. Then I asked myself, "What did she mean by that?" My mind traveled all over the board, from the Slough of Despond to the Valley of Humiliation (to borrow from John Bunyan). I searched the ancient records (my lesson plans), checking them against State and National Standards (which they met or exceeded). Finally, a classic movie line came to me- "What we've got here is failure to communicate" (voted #11 in American Film Institutes' 100 Movie Quotes Poll- click here to see the entire list), from Cool Hand Luke.

Daily, I am inundated with the thought process of the teenage mind so I understand a few things about it (2 of my 5 children still remain in this category). Here is one thing I know- as a general rule, teenagers don't communicate well with their parents, especially when it comes to school-related matters. And, in their defense, after spending all day doing schoolwork they don't want to give a recap in the evening. As a result, many parents have no idea what occurs in their child's classrooms, unless something exciting or challenging happens, and that is why the comment from the parent went deep. My job, as a teacher, is to communicate. I am called to meet students where they are and lead them further. I must be persistent and consistent. This includes ongoing conversation with parents. 

So, I must say, "Thank you!" to the parent who reminded me that my job doesn't end when the bell rings.

I have been asked, on occasion, "How did my child get a 'C' in Art?"
Here is the answer-

1. Occasionally pays attention
2. Completes every other assignment
(odd or even, the student's choice)
3. Finishes assignments as quickly, and poorly, as possible
4. Files a formal request for mediocrity
(see below)

Formal Request
For Mediocrity 

On a more serious note, here is the rubric I developed for Westminster Academy, Memphis, TN-


  1. what books are in that stack you have there?

  2. Rainbows For the Fallen World by Calvin Seerveld (a Must Read!), Three versions of Scripture (one in Hebrew), The Artist's Handbook by Ralph Mayer and a series of sermons from the 19th century.