Room Home > Older Students>Big Ideas,
The "Big Ideas" and the Big Realities
of the Hidden Curriculum
It's a good idea to keep "big ideas" in mind when we're teaching.
In content areas, these are things like the Law of Conservation
of Matter and Energy, or that positives and negatives tend
to balance each other out, or that different cultures have
class structures based on status and power.
There are other big ideas, though, that
are even more important. These are the lessons on the unwritten
curriculum that drive what teachers expect from students on
a day-to-tay basis -- the curriculum of responsibility and
time management and expecting the best from yourself, which
is often learned through difficult rites of passage such as
The Tenth Grade Research Paper.
When teachers hesitate to accommodate
a student with a disability, it's often sincere, with that
unwritten curriculum in mind. A silent and sometimes passive-aggressive
battle ensues, with parents, students and teachers wrangling
Sometimes it may be better to directly
address that hidden "scope and sequence" of skills. What many
of these teachers don't realize is that some students get
on a totally different "scope and sequence" of academic and
survival skills, so that what should be teaching them one
thing is teaching them something else entirely.
Try asking, "Are you reluctant to
provide this accommodation because you feel it would keep
my child from learning independence and responsibility?"
and then suggest that you think this is very important and
you will gladly map out a path to that independence, but you
do not want to sacrifice all the other goals of education
for that one.
Here are some elements of the "unwritten
curriculum" - and its other side.
You are asked to do impossible things. Somehow, you figure
out how to do them. That's how you learn independence
and confidence and that it's better to face difficult
things and tackle them, than to run away from them.
You are asked to do impossible things. They're impossible.
You fail. You find out that life goes on.
If you really work at understanding the assignments,
the tests end up being easier.
You can't understand this stuff, much less remember
it for a test. Get through each assignment at a time.
Get enough points to compensate for low test grades.
A well-planned project is a lot of work, but you can
do well if you get started early.
Oh, &^%. A Project. Well, it's not due for a while,
Tests are like a sports match or a battle you need to
win. There are rules and the other guy can be cunning.
They're stressful - but you learn to deal with the stress
Tests are games, but the refs don't like you anyway.
Telling you to practice harder is a waste of time.
Most of the people in the class have no idea what the
teacher is talking about in this subject. You do. You
are too cool to say you like it, but your good grades
are proof of your intelligence.
Most of the people in the class know exactly what the
teacher is talking about, but you don't! You are too cool
to say you don't get it, so you hope you can fake it well
enough to pass the tests.
This is all going to build up and become a great amount
of good grades and knowledge and wisdom that you'll use
for the rest of your life.
This is all going to build up and you're going to be
discovered for the stupid person you really are.
Teachers have no idea what life is really like... but,
they are your path to succeeding in school, which is your
path to a good job, and some of them are worth a little
Teachers have no idea what life is really like. They
are clueless. If you're going to be successful, it's going
to be outside these walls!
Language is incredibly powerful, versatile, enlightening
Nobody really uses big words but teachers and even
they don't really know what they mean.
Hard work pays off. Perseverance and determination are
extremely valuable (and getting rarer, it seems).
You really, really might win the lottery this time.