Creating a fair and diverse curriculum in Glen Rock

by Andrew Kastelman, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Curriculum is a highly debated topic within education. How detailed should the curriculum be? How much freedom should teachers have to deviate from the curriculum? At Glen Rock, the curriculum is constantly changing in an attempt to ensure a fair, balanced and challenging education for students.

Shari Krapels, Glen Rock’s K-12 English and Language Arts (ELA) Supervisor, is in charge of overseeing the English curriculum. Hired this past July, Krapels is analyzing the current curriculum and will work with teachers to make necessary changes. Curriculum is usually changed on five year cycles, and this past summer Glen Rock changed its Journalism, Graphic Novels and Writers Workshop curriculum. 

Glen Rock uses curriculum maps to organize and store the data.

“It’s basically the way that we memorialize the work that we’ve done on the curriculum, and where we house it, so when a new teacher joins us, I can say ‘go ahead and look at the map,’” Krapels said.

After given the curriculum for a class, teachers must balance teaching to the curriculum and teaching topics they believe are valuable, but are outside the curriculum. High School History teacher Christopher Pohlman has this challenge when teaching AP United States Government and Politics. 

“When you’re teaching a government course in an election year, you could find yourself tightrope walking off the curriculum,” Pohlman said. 

Krapels believes it is important that she gives English teachers this freedom in their classrooms. 

“If a teacher feels really strongly about a book, I always want them to teach it because when you love the book the kids can tell,” Krapels said. 

One of the biggest challenges of teaching history is incorporating cultures that are not as familiar to students. However, High School World History teacher Donna Maasarani believes this is less of an issue.

“Unfamiliar cultures are less and less of a concern because I think many students have been exposed to many different cultures,” Maasarani said. “That’s one of the great things about the students here. I think they’re open to understanding new cultures.”

An important addition to the curriculum was LGBTQ issues in world history. Teaching discrmination in class is an important topic as well for Pohlman.

“Let’s talk about why we think that happened, because that’s where the learning comes from, so we try not to make those same mistakes,” Pohlman said.

For English, Krapels hopes to use her experience of teaching High School English for nine years when choosing literature.

“A lot of times when we think about the classics, what we’re thinking about are texts written by white men, many of whom are dead,” Krapels said. “We represent the American experience, then we’ve got to find voices that also represent that, and that means contemporary authors, women and women of color.”

To ensure a varied reading selection, Krapels focuses on the idea of “Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors.” The phrase, coined by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, puts a spotlight on diversification through literature.

“Literature that has a mirror reflects back to you the world that is already familiar to you, so you might see characters who look like you and who seem like you, and that’s really, really useful,” Krapels said. “But, we also like to use literature as a window, which means that it gives us an opportunity to look into a life that’s not like our own. Then the sliding glass doors are where the two meet. The sliding glass doors story is one that invites you into that world.”

Due to these ideas, Krapels hopes Glen Rock’s English curriculum will set students up for success after graduation. 

“I would want someone who graduates from Glen Rock to be a critical reader and thinker,” Krapels said. “Someone who is curious, who asks questions, and who takes nothing just for granted as fact.”