Class Policy Is Curriculum
I learned loads from this podcast episode.
Joshuah Thurbee, a teacher of teachers working with the Knowles Teacher Initiative, dropped this gem on the most recent episode of the Teaching Math Teaching podcast:
My late policy is whatever their late policy is for their students. So any time a teacher—one of my students—comes to me and says, “Well I’m not going to finish this project on time,” I say, “Alright just show me your late policy, and that’s going to be applied to you.” I changed 100% of my students’ late policies.
I appreciated the reminder here that no matter what a teacher says, no matter what’s between the covers of the textbook, some of the most enduring lessons a student will learn in a classroom are taught through its policies.
Grading policies—especially participation grades—teach students how the teacher defines success and competence.
Seating charts teach students about the kinds of classroom interactions the teacher values.
Late policies, and a host of related policies, teach students what the teacher thinks about the packaging of the thinking relative to the thinking itself.
Bathroom policies teach students what the teacher thinks about their bodily autonomy.
And on and on. Thurbee is obviously conscious of this “implicit curriculum” but it’s another more difficult matter to help new teachers (and veteran teachers!) become conscious of it and its effects on students. I thought his meta late policy was a particularly graceful lesson.
Thanks for reading Mathworlds! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Thurbee offers several other gems in that podcast, including (a) how an effective principal plans staff meetings and (b) how an effective math teacher educator gently helps new teachers understand the limits of their content knowledge and their need to develop pedagogical content knowledge.
If you ever find yourself wondering, “What does effective technology use look like in a math class?” please help yourself to this video from Berwyn South School District 100. You’ll see technology used to support student thinking and conversation. You’ll see multiple students looking at a single device, talking about what they’re seeing. You’ll see students move seamlessly from the device to paper to whiteboards and back again. It’s very easy to find math classes where digital technology is either absent or omnipresent, deployed sparingly or overbearingly. BSD is setting a standard here IMO.
I went shopping for a toilet last week, which led to a mathematical investigation of weighted averages that is, in one sense, perfect for middle school and, in another, more important sense, completely inappropriate for middle school.
Robert Kaplinsky attended the Get Your Teach On conference and brought back a fun piece of ethnography looking at its differences with conferences like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual event.
I just finished teaching a middle school class here in Oakland, CA, and I’ll share with you a screen from the activity that drove the class into an absolute problem solving frenzy. Please enjoy.