When teaching, or learning to be a teacher, rather, one always hears ‘You don’t have to re-invent the wheel!’ but I beg to differ. I have re-invented the wheel so many times, I have an entire dropbox full of resources to prove it.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Primary Years Program (IB PYP), my former school and the Ontario Curriculum.
The PYP is an amazing tool for learning, especially in international schools with a wide variety of cultural diversity and educational backgrounds among the students. It provides a broad framework for schools and classrooms to foster their own learning environment to suit the needs of the local students and area. It is truly an amazing sight to see students interacting with their immediate surroundings and learning applicable knowledge that is relevant to their lives. However, the teacher, in many cases, has to put significant effort into bulking up and building brand new resources for their students. It is helpful if the school is established, but many schools, like my former school, are in the transitioning phase and likely floundering with the daunting task of shaping an independent curriculum on their own. In many cases the administration doesn’t really end up helping and the buck falls to the teachers.
The Ontario Curriculum is full of strands and mandatory learning tasks for students. They are well thought out and copious. They are built in a way where the learning objectives can be the same in every classroom, but the method and lessons to achieve the objectives are open to individual teacher preferences. This is both good and bad. Teachers have the freedom to choose their own teaching methods, but in many cases they have to create their own resources on their own. Textbooks touch on different topics but don’t necessarily cover all of the required strands. This leaves the teacher with the task of creating or locating other resources to suit her possibly diverse classroom.
After teaching the better part of a year using the British National Curriculum, I have a wider knowledge of other teaching systems. The BNC is extremely rigid, to the point of exhaustion. Abacus is the name of the mathematics curriculum and every day of every week is planned with 3 levels of differentiation, to the minute – with warm up games and full content suggestions. It’s quite exhaustive. The literacy curriculum is similar, with printouts, questions and specific activities that every classroom can use in relation to specific suggested books on a reading list, many available online.
It takes hours to read what the BNC suggests for daily teaching. It takes hours to research the best lines of inquiry and activities with great summative assessments for the PYP. It takes a lot of effort to create your own hands on activities to correspond to the Ontario curriculum – especially when it seems like a teacher culture of hoarding personal resources.
So which is best?
There is re-invention for each.