Contributed by Dean R.
How have you integrated Curriculum Trak into your school culture?
We talk about Curriculum Trak a lot as a staff. We talk about it in staff meetings. We create space in our PLCs for Curriculum Trak. It is referenced in our staff memos. We have lead teachers that reach out to their colleagues to see if they can be of any help in the documentation process. We create smaller deadlines along the way.
What steps did you take to train, support, and encourage your teachers in their mapping efforts?
I made sure that I understood the process. I asked a teacher who struggled with technology skills if I could help her with the documentation process. While working with her, I completed the maps for a few of her courses. This helped me to understand the process and the challenges that a teacher would face, if any. It also helped me to understand how a techno-phobe teacher saw Curriculum Trak. After I learned the process and actually did it, I sat down with some key lead teachers. I trained the trainers, so to speak. I picked people that I knew would be enthusiastic about the documentation process. These teachers knew that they would be expected to help other teachers once they were comfortable. Then, together, we trained the entire faculty. Once the faculty had initial training, the trainers would follow up with the teachers to answer any specific questions and to walk through the process with them again. They continued to follow up with teachers. We would notice who was behind in their mapping, and then the trainers would follow up with those teachers. We provided staff meeting time for the faculty to work on their maps. We would feed questions to the PLCs so the teachers would talk about their mapping as part of continuing school improvement. All the while, the trainers were reaching out to teachers. Now, I am no longer involved in the training process. The trainers do all of the work. When a new teacher joins the staff, they are immediately scheduled with a 2-hour training session with a trainer. Trainers then follow up many times with the new teacher. Depending on the comfort level of the new teacher, this can last a few weeks or a few months.
What unexpected insights, findings or benefits have you discovered from your mapping efforts so far?
It helped us to see where some teachers had gone rogue and were doing their own thing. A couple of teachers weren’t following the prescribed maps that we already had on Excel spreadsheets, or they weren’t keeping the maps current. It revealed a lot of information. Much of that information was good–we had great teachers who were excellent at their craft. Others needed some encouragement to follow the school’s expectations. That has been successful.
We are considered by some Christian schools in the Midwest to have expertise in Biblical worldview integration. This is because of a unique system that we have in place–one that took 3-years of intense professional development (with Worldview Matters, Seattle, WA and Dr. Christian Overman). When schools would ask us about how we document our efforts, it was easy to send PDFs of certain maps to help people better understand our process.
One of the smartest things we did was to have Curriculm Trak turn our Biblical Worldview Premises into benchmarks. When that was finished, we loaded them on to every map for every subject for every grade level. This allowed us to track these benchmarks. We now train other schools how to do this process–creating schoolwide Biblical Worldview Premises, and then tracking their use in the entire school. I just did a training about this in Madison, WI on Friday at Impact Christian Schools–a new Curriculum Trak partner school system.
What advice would you offer to schools just starting the process?
Make the mapping of your software part of the professional process and time that is already expected of the school. We gave “staff meeting” time to this. While the maps couldn’t be completed in ONLY the provided staff time, it helped the teachers to know that it was important to the administration. It also helped to build some camaraderie around the process–everyone was working on it together in the same room (our school computer lab). It was more enjoyable for our teachers to work on their maps in the computer lab with their colleagues sitting next to them. Teachers have thanked us for giving them the time to work on it. We still do this.
As an aside: Even though our maps are mature, they still need to be regularly updated to keep them current. To ensure they are current, we still give teachers time to work on their maps. We now encourage teachers to upload as much documentation into the maps as possible. Do you have a packet that you use with the unit? Upload it. Do you use the same review sheet every time you teach this unit? Upload it.
What tips, strategies, or tools did you find most helpful in advancing your efforts?
As mentioned before, giving teachers time to do this. We also kept monthly track of the progress teachers were making in documenting their maps. At the beginning of each month (during a staff meeting), we would pass out progress reports. Each teacher’s report listed what was left to do. The reports got quite specific. When a teacher had nothing left on their list, a big deal was made about it, and the teacher was no longer required to report to the CT staff meetings–something that motivated other teachers. It became part of the culture to have an empty list. Teachers would ask exactly when the next monthly list would come out. They wanted to know so they could work to reduce their monthly list, or to get removed from the report list.
Where are your mapping efforts leading you? What’s next as a result of your efforts?
We added a column for Essential Questions that is currently hidden in each of our maps. We intend to grow in this area, and then make the column visible again. We are also working to upload as much documentation to our maps as possible.