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Why This Curricula?

A personal note from our Lead Teacher.

I have been a teacher all of my life. Officially, I have now been a teacher more than half of my lifetime. Unofficially I have always been involved with education in one form or another. My family are all teachers, school administrators, and academes. There was, in fact, a time in my ‘teens when I was determined to be ANYTHING EXCEPT a teacher. I had been enveloped in the behind-the-scenes drama of American educators and education from the moment of my birth. I quickly realized, however, that I was only rebelling against MYSELF, and that my immersion in these affairs in fact made me uniquely qualified to deal with anything that came my way. I sought, however, to do it “my way”; using those elements of my own education which had delighted, encouraged, and inspired me as a foundation for further exploration and growth.

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I have been blessed with an array of fabulous educational experiences of my own. They have colored and informed my development as a person, as a professional, as a global citizen. I attended a public school Montessori pilot program in elementary school (although I was completely unaware of this fact until I undertook my own Montessori Directress training years later, and realized that the “IGE” (“Individually Guided Education”) program I attended was, in fact, an experiment in Montessori based education). I “tested into” one of the finest college preparatory schools in the country and attended it for what would now be considered “middle-school”. By the end of my sophomore year, however, despite taking all “Honors” and “AP” classes, I was listless and uninspired. In a “last ditch” effort to regain my education for myself I transferred to a brand new school program, the International Baccalaureate. My intellectual fervor, hunger for knowledge, native curiosity, and desire to learn was immediately reinvigorated and renewed. I had been saved from the abyss. All of my classes were integrated. I began to see the natural connection that lay between all the disciplines of study. The emphasis was on critical thinking rather than rote memorization and regurgitation of facts. My teenage apathy, isolation, and ennui were overcome by a sense of purpose, fullness and promise. I entered college as a full Junior, which allowed me to write my own educational “ticket”.

I decided to stay the full four years as an undergraduate, but I emerged with two B.A.’s and an Associates degree. After college I literally set out into the world, and embraced every possible life experience I could find. I returned with an immense desire to assist the education of others, to touch the lives of other individuals the way individuals had touched, assisted, and transformed my life. I landed at a Montessori preschool in Boulder, Colorado where I was delighted to observe how easy and enlightening each and every school day could be when the directional foundation was designed to follow human nature, rather than fight against it. I decided to pursue my Montessori Directress certification. It was the most intensive and rigorous educational experience of my life.

As a teacher I sought to utilize, expand, and temper the lessons I learned from Maria Montessori’s acute observations of human development and the acquisition of knowledge. I began to meld with them the lessons I had learned in the International Baccalaureate. I studied other educational theorists also, and began to develop a highly specialized, widely varied array of methods which all reside in my teacher’s “bag of tricks”. I believe it makes more sense to tailor the educational philosophy to the individual moment in an individual child’s learning experience, than to try and fit a child into a pre-existing educational philosophy. My observation after years of teaching is that there is not one philosophy or methodology that is “all right, all the time”. Individual students respond to different methods at different times. Information can be presented a myriad of ways and at a multitude of different levels. Emergent, relevant, and responsive curriculum is also the most inspiring. The idea is to keep students invested in and to a great degree responsible for their own education.

I have worked at many schools, with many educational programs. All of these programs excelled in some areas, at the expense of others. None offered an integrated, global perspective or cultural competencies. None emphasized individual reflection as a basis for discernment; but, until you discover how you learn best, how do you know how best to learn? I do not believe education has to be this way. I do not believe that “skill based” learning and “play based” learning are mutually exclusive. I believe you can have both. I believe that schools can offer outstanding, individually paced academics, teach learning and organizational skills that enhance the ability to deal with, synthesize, and utilize all new information input now, and throughout life, while at the same time offering careful, continual social/emotional guidance, quality arts education with an emphasis on creating and constructing a creative approach to everything. I do not believe that individual disciplines of learning are best taught in isolation, or for that matter, that it is easier to teach or understand them that way. In education, as in life, everything is interconnected. The sooner we begin developing the skills to discern these connections, the easier it becomes. In an increasingly globalized, interconnected world, it is vital that we all learn to not only appreciate complexity and diversity in ourselves and all around us, but to embrace it. As educators preparing young humans to live in the 21st century, it is or obligation to help develop a framework which offers both a sturdy foundation and the mental flexibility to respond to the complexities ahead.

I believe that as an educator I am not imparting knowledge, I am sharing in the exquisite delight of continually pursuing it. I have been a “learner” all of my life. Both officially and unofficially. It is a shared lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that all of us at New Mexico Academy of International Studies share together.

Carol McClure



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