I thoroughly enjoyed the provocation from Scott Hartl and Christina Riley. The pair are part of the leadership team of EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning), a US K–12 nonprofit with a pedagogical model of teaching and learning that builds students’ academic achievement and character development.
An element of the article that struck a chord with me was how we might see our curriculum as a viewfinder, portal or lens.
A high-quality curriculum offers students texts and topics that contain mirrors, windows, and doors: mirrors that affirm and celebrate their own identities and cultures, windows that help them learn about and understand others, and doorways that present them with opportunities to be agents of change.
A simple metaphor like this allows any of us to question and challenge the learning experience we design. I used it during a teacher workshop this week as we explored ideas for Term 2.
Suppose I push myself to be more precise and more accurately respond to the author’s words. It is not curriculum as a mirror/window/door, but a curriculum that contains mirrors, windows, and doors.
The distinction is vital as the portals and lenses are tools we use and manipulate. There is a variety we can explore. It does not see curriculum as monolithic but polylithic. Am I mixing my stones and portals metaphors!
Why are these curriculum elements essential?
A curriculum with mirrors has the potential to appeal to students’ interests and also reflect their lives along various axes of identity so that they feel connected to the books they read and the topics they study.
What about windows?
It is equally important for students to see new worlds—these are the windows they look through that develop social-emotional skills like empathy and respect for others. Helping students look through those windows, particularly at events in the past, with a critical eye for how they are connected to life today is key to equity work.
Doors suggest movement or transition and how we can put our students in a position to learn through their actions.
When working for equity, perhaps the most impactful part of the mirrors, windows, and doors trifecta is ensuring that curriculum offers students doors to walk through. Scholar Shawn Ginwright argues that when students can meaningfully engage with the very problems in their communities that have caused them trauma, they become “agents in restoring their own well-being” (2018