Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too many hours rotting my brain in front of a TV watching sweaty men in spandex rolling around on a mat together. Or perhaps it’s because I took too many piledrivers on the unforgiving ground in my family’s backyard as I reenacted famous ‘rasslin’ matches with my middle school and high school buddies.
Whatever the reasons, I’m noticing some frightening similarities between the new curriculum I’m teaching this year and the soap opera-like storylines that are building to WrestleMania, the WWE’s biggest show of the year.
At the risk of losing the interest of a majority of my readers, I’ll do my best to quickly bring you up to speed on the latest happenings in the world of professional wrestling in order to explain this odd connection.
The WWE promotes WrestleMania as a culmination of a year of storytelling that typically results in a villain receiving his comeuppance by a conquering hero. This year’s event is no different as Roman Reigns (pictured above)–a handsome, musclebound Samoan who just so happens to be a cousin of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson–has been pushed by the WWE as its next marketable superhero and the man likely to unseat the villainous champion, Brock Lesnar. The problem? The WWE’s fans haven’t bought into it as witnessed in the video below:
Needless to say, those jeers are not the reaction the WWE higher ups were hoping for. After all, Roman Reigns has a great look. He talks a good game. He even beats up to the bad guys. What more could fans want?
Turns out, they like this guy:
That’s Daniel Bryan, a smaller wrestler who looks more the part of a distant relative of the “Duck Dynasty” family. In short, he is not the WWE’s vision of its ideal company spokesman. Regardless, the WWE has decided to forge ahead with its endorsement of Roman Reigns and has inserted him into the main event of WrestleMania.
Essentially, the WWE has told its fans that what they want isn’t what they really need.
And it’s exactly what we are telling our students when we exclude them from the process of curriculum design.
One size does not fit all
Our district has recently adopted the MAISA units, one of many available curriculum packages developed around the Common Core. The purpose of this post isn’t to bash the Common Core; the language of the CCSS leaves room for flexibility and creativity in our lessons. The problem is that a one-size-fits-all curriculum does not. The curriculum mandates that students will write poetry and will discuss “the hero’s journey” in literature among other topics of study. By adopting a canned curriculum, we’re telling students that we somehow know exactly what they need even when their moans and yawns are clearly telling us that we have no idea.
It’s like everything wrong with the WWE has infiltrated my classroom.
Think big and listen up
So what’s the solution for improved curriculum planning? Perhaps the conversation needs to start by determining what our local communities value. I would argue that curricula should be designed to give students an opportunity to create a lasting, positive impact in their school and community. With that purpose established, we should include students in a discussion to determine how they can achieve such a lofty goal. Imagine a curriculum designed around the promotion and coverage of school sports. Think about how engagement would increase if students competed against each other in marketing campaigns to advertise area businesses. These are only a couple possibilities, but they sure are a lot more interesting and authentic than what a packaged curriculum can offer.
Although these ideas may seem grandiose, what I love about them the most is that they would allow students to truly leave a lasting legacy in their school and community. Leave it to one of my students to put this into perspective for me.
Let’s just say that Jeremiah is somewhat hyperactive in my class at the end of the day. When I met with his mother during parent teacher conferences last week, I speculated that this was because his other teachers constantly tell him to sit still all day long. He smiled and confessed that he wished more of his classes were hands-on, much like his woodshop class where he is currently building a storage rack for the baseball team’s batting helmets. He spoke with pride about the thought of coming back to school years later to still see his work on display.
Maybe your experiences differ, but I completely understand where Jeremiah is coming from. My best memories of school come from looking back at the yearbook photos I took or by walking into our drafting classroom and seeing one of my projects still sitting on the shelf. I, too, swell with pride when I flip through the pages of a recent edition of the Ferris State Torch–the college newspaper where I served as an editor for four years–and see design elements I created still being used 14 years later.
In some small way, I left my mark. School curricula should be designed to give all students the opportunity to do the same.
One for the ages
Every year around this time, the WWE gets sentimental and shows clips of 30-plus years of iconic WrestleMania moments. I assume that these trips down memory lane are meant to evoke good feelings of years gone by.
Unfortunately, this year’s WrestleMania likely won’t produce any of those. And it’s the WWE’s own fault because it didn’t listen to its fans.
Hopefully, schools wise up and stop making the same mistake. Much like the iconic WrestleMania III moment of Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant, we need to give students a voice in curriculum design so that someday they can celebrate their own iconic educational moment.