I have co-planned transformational interdisciplinary units (IDU’s) with Rachael Thrash and Ellen Heyting for the last year and a half. Working with Rachael and Ellen has been inspirational.
Their vision and understanding of transformational teaching and learning has helped me to grow professionally and change or ‘transform’ along with our students. Specifically, we have planned three transformational units (‘A meaningful life’, ‘Why do we turn away’ and ‘How do we justify power’) that combine Language and literature (English), Language acquisition (English) and Individuals and societies (Humanities).
Whilst combining three subject areas is challenging in its own right, focusing on real-world problems, such as ‘the meaning of life’, why people turn away from others in need, and the use and abuse power link the subjects and allow students to explore the social inequalities that exist in our world. In my collaborative planning and work with Rachael and Ellen, I have come to understand that my role is to create an environment that allows my students to explore real world issues by reflecting on their own life experiences, belief and value systems and actively engage with the broader community by reaching out with open minds and discovering the common humanity that we all share as human beings.
For me, seeing students apply themselves to addressing and confronting these real world problems has been inspiring. Through their learning and experiences, I have learned a lot about myself as a person and teacher. I can actually say that I have ‘transformed’ along with my students. I understand that all of my units must be transformational to have true meaning and impact on the lives and learning of my students and myself. This is my starting point for all of my planning.
Brian Rasmussen, Teacher
I was pretty focused on my reputation before this unit. If I hadn't gone through this unit I wouldn't be as focused on what makes a meaningful life and focusing on what you yourself enjoy and just doing it for the reputation and to please others. I've been thinking about this unit outside of class all day. We don't want to die like Ivan Illyich with such huge regret.
For education to have meaning, it must be meaningful to the learner. Yet, how often are schools pursuing curriculum based on other premises. Rachael Thrash and Ellen Heyting, in their approach, challenge schools and teachers to reconsider the starting point of thinking. They ask the learner the most important questions to face ourselves and our world. With their leadership, we are daring ourselves to start with the most difficult questions in our curriculum design- the kind of questions that disturb our complacent selves.