Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Question of Children and Curricula

This morning over breakfast I was reading about the development of the institute process and the Ruhi Institute.  There were so many things that they learned which I can now see as applicable in my own life, particularly when it comes to the idea of consultation, action, and reflection, and how these are not linear, but carried out parallel to one another.

Take this blog, for instance: although I am not writing these articles with any overall coherent scheme in mind, I do actually consult with others about topics.  So, consultation: check.  I write them.  Action: check.  I read all the e-mail that comes in about the articles, and talk with friends about them, sometimes editing them even after they are posted.  Reflection: check.

At times, someone will suggest a topic, while referring to a previous article, inadvertantly pointing out a probelm.  This prompts me to go back and edit it, improve it.  All at once: check.

Now, if I ever edit this for a book, I'll need to put some coherency into the order.

This morning, though, as I was pouring the cream in my tea (a rare occasion to be sure), watching it swirl around, slowly diffusing in the dark liquid, I thought about children's classes and a quote from Paul Lample.  "...The process of entry by troops could be secured only if the next generation of children received a Baha'i education."  I was thinking how this education diffuses throughout the community like the cream in the tea, permeating everything, leaving nothing untouched, effecting the whole of it.

Then I was thinking about the curriculum of the Ruhi Institute and how it was developed: through continual consultation, action and reflection.

Then I remembered an e-mail that came in last night, in which the author wished us a warm Holy Day, the Birth of Baha'u'llah, and she quoted a song she learned in a children's class as a child in the 60s.

What happened to that song?  What did we learn about curriculum development in those days (lo those many years ago)?  How have we improved upon it?

These are, of course, important questions which I am not in a position to answer, but as someone who has struggled with regular lessons for a children's class for over 4 years, they are very real to me.  40 years later, and I'm still trying to develop curriculum for these children as if in a vacuum.  I have very little to build upon.

Where are these lessons, and how can I learn from them?  Sure, there are some wonderful sites that bring up some of these questions, and share ideas, but even this raises more questions.

How well do we evaluate our children's classes?  How do we learn to improve our curriculum?

In the public school system, we use exams to guage our success in teaching, but does that work well?  Should we set up exams for our children's classes?  That doesn't seem too practical, nor does it actually measure much, except how well we take tests.

I'm not sure, but I think life itself is the exam.

For example, if we are teaching cleanliness in one of our classes, can we then see if the children are practicing it more in their life?  Are they helping clean up after class?  Can we ask their parents if they are keeping their rooms more clean?  And if not, doesn't that mean we should do the lesson again?

In school, we don't teach the children how to add for one lesson and then expect them to "get it".  We review it over and over, doing the same lesson many times, each with a slight variation, hoping that after multiple times they will begin to understand the concept.  It seems to me that we should do the same thing with these more valuable (valuabler?) lessons of moral and spiritual import.

I don't have a lot of answers in this posting, but as I state in the title, it's a question.

Now to find some tea that is still hot.

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