A few weeks ago my husband handed me a book. He told me I should read it before I finished writing all the discussion questions for Tutti’s Promise. He has been working in schools his entire professional life and knows something about education.
The title is Understanding by Design and it is written by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. I paged through a little of the book but kept looking back at the cover. Grant Wiggins. “I had a teacher named Grant Wiggins in high school,” I told my husband.
My mind floated back to some very specific memories:
Grant teaching a philosophy class. He was one of the few teachers that went by his first name in the late 70s at Loomis-Chaffee. Grant was late. About 5 minutes into class he came in and sat silently at the big table with us. We had been chatting with our friends but quieted down waiting for class to start. Grant just sat. He didn’t say a word. We sat and waited. We had been reading about Socrates and one particularly brilliant classmate spoke up and said something like “I think we’re supposed to talk about the homework reading.” Another classmate looked at Grant and asked him if we were supposed to talk about the homework. Grant just sat. After a few more minutes we started talking about the homework. One by one the entire class became involved in a lively discussion of the reading we had done the night before. We posed our own questions. We pondered answers. We probed and challenged and enjoyed learning something entirely on our own without a teacher’s input. Because Grant just sat. At the end of class he got up and left the room. It was one of the most memorable and best classes I had that year.
Grant was in a faculty band. Rabbit Creek. They would play in the quad on spring weekends. Grant played guitar and sang. I remember dancing in the quad with my friends and enjoying a spring evening.
Grant died a couple of years ago. He had a heart attack and his death shocked many Loomis- Chaffee alumni.
I flipped through the book some more…. Understanding by Design is an approach to curriculum creation that emphasizes more than knowledge. Its goal is for students to truly understand the subject and the basic approach is to plan in reverse. First decide what you want your students to take away from the lesson, then build the activities and questions around that goal. Makes sense to me.
My discussion questions for Tutti’s Promise are now on my website.